Under the Dome

Environmentalist testifies to Congress on NC coal ash

Frank Holleman with the Southern Environmental Law center speaks during the N.C. Legislature's Environmental Review Commission meeting Monday morning in the Legislative Office Bldg. in Raleigh, Feb 17, 2014. The lawmakers heard from Duke Energy, state officials with DENR and the Division of Water Resources and the public on the coal ash spill that occurred at the Duke Energy facility on the Dan River recently.
Frank Holleman with the Southern Environmental Law center speaks during the N.C. Legislature's Environmental Review Commission meeting Monday morning in the Legislative Office Bldg. in Raleigh, Feb 17, 2014. The lawmakers heard from Duke Energy, state officials with DENR and the Division of Water Resources and the public on the coal ash spill that occurred at the Duke Energy facility on the Dan River recently. cseward@newsobserver.com

Frank Holleman, one of the lead attorneys on North Carolina’s coal ash problem for the Southern Environmental Law Center, testified before Congress on Thursday.

Holleman and several other speakers talked about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule regulating coal ash disposal. Some Republicans are pleased that the EPA didn’t impose a more rigid regulation, but are concerned the rule doesn’t “provide the certainty that job-creators need,” according to the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy hearing notice.

Holleman recounted efforts to stop and clean up pollution from coal ash stored in unlined riverfront pits in the southeast. And he took a few shots at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources for what he calls lax enforcement — a view that DENR disputes.

Holleman’s theme was that citizen lawsuits, such as the ones SELC threatened to file in order to enforce pollution laws — prompting the state agency to file its own lawsuits — are integral to protecting the environment. He says the new EPA rule still allows citizen lawsuits, and that should be retained.

“We have seen, over and over again, that state agencies will not effectively enforce laws designed to protect communities from the risks and pollution stemming from coal ash storage sites owned by utilities,” Holleman says.

Here’s video of the entire hearing on C-SPAN. Holleman’s remarks begin at 2:19:42, and he responds to questions near the end of the nearly three-hour session.

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