Democrats on Thursday previewed a coal-ash bill they will introduce in the short session that begins in May.
The proposal echoes some of the public sentiment that has surfaced since the Feb. 2 spill into the Dan River in Rockingham County, such as closing all coal ash ponds and making the utility – not ratepayers – pick up the cost. It also would restore funding so the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has enough staff to monitor coal ash sites, and repeal a recent law that relaxed groundwater pollution restrictions.
Sen. Mike Woodard, a Durham Democrat who represents an area in Caswell County where the Dan River crosses, expressed optimism that the bill in some form could pick up bipartisan support.
The coal ash ponds are in Democratic and Republican districts, he pointed out. The spill near Eden was in Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s town, and Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, Republican from Hendersonville, has said he would support a coal-ash bill of some sort.
“Frankly, I welcome them with open arms,” Woodard said. “It’s easily a bipartisan issue.”
It’s also an issue that Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, has unsuccessfully tried to accomplish every year since 2009. But she will try again with this newest version.
The bill would:
Seven legislators, representing the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate, presented the proposal at a news conference in the Legislative Building.
Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat, also called on Gov. Pat McCrory, Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis to take a more active stand on the coal ash issue.