Editorials

NC coal ash posturing won’t bring needed cleanup

Coal ash slurry pours into the first of two settling ponds adjacent to the Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake. Duke Energy disposes tons of coal ash from its power plants.
Coal ash slurry pours into the first of two settling ponds adjacent to the Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake. Duke Energy disposes tons of coal ash from its power plants. Staff Photographer

If only Gov. Pat McCrory’s righteous indignation at the legislature’s coal ash regulatory bill came out of a desire for stronger regulation that would truly get tough with the governor’s former employer, his veto would be welcomed. Unfortunately, the governor’s veto – like other vetoes, certain to be overridden – looks more like a fuss between McCrory and the GOP leaders on Jones Street over jurisdiction than it does a disagreement over regulation itself.

McCrory says the bill shouldn’t create a commission to regulate cleanup at Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds. That’s his job, an executive job, the governor believes. And, he says the bill doesn’t act quickly enough on water safety. The bill would assure neighbors of coal ash ponds that they could be connected to municipal water supplies, with Duke paying, if they feared their wells were polluted.

In February 2014, Duke employees saw coal ash waste spilling out of a storage pond near Eden into the Dan River. A huge investigation and controversy ensued, with Duke trying to minimize its financial and image damages and Republicans in the General Assembly appearing confused about what to do to regulate coal cash ponds and prevent future spills. More than two years later, there’s little reason for confidence that the issue has been resolved in any definitive fashion, and now the GOP leadership in the legislature is sure to smack the governor down again with a veto override, only the latest “show him who’s boss” moment.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have been and remain hesitant to fight a well-heeled corporation to truly clean up the coal-ash mess.

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