Correction: XGR--Coal Ash story

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 21, 2014 at 1:22 pm •  Published: August 21, 2014
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — In a story Aug. 20 about new North Carolina legislation addressing Duke Energy coal ash deposits, The Associated Press reported erroneously the length of time the company has to remove the ash at four sites considered to be at the highest risk. Duke Energy must act within five years, not 15 years.

A corrected version of the story is below:

NC legislators approve regulating toxic coal ash

NC lawmakers pass regulations for toxic coal ash after massive spill soiled 70 miles of river

By EMERY P. DALESIO and MITCH WEISS

Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers Wednesday praised new legislation they say will regulate coal-ash pits and clean up decades of toxic waste generated by coal-burning electricity plants.

The House and Senate approved the legislation six months after a spill at a Duke Energy power plant near Eden coated 70-miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge and ignited debate about the safety of 32 other coal ash dumps across the state. The measure goes to Gov. Pat McCrory before becoming law. His spokesmen did not respond to a message asking whether he would sign it.

Environmentalists and some Democrats said the legislation doesn't go far enough. Others called it a starting point for dealing with a problem long in the making.

"It may not be perfect, but it is a solid step forward," said Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Haywood.

Lawmakers say North Carolina is the first state to pass a sweeping coal ash bill. Nationwide, there are more than 1,100 coal ash dumps. Regulation has largely been left to states as federal officials have debated rules for coal ash storage and disposal since the largest spill in Tennessee in 2008. Coal ash contains toxic chemicals including arsenic, mercury and lead. State regulators have previously conceded that all of Duke Energy's unlined ash dumps in the state are contaminating groundwater.

Charlotte-based Duke Energy, the nation's largest electricity company, can seek regulatory permission in January to charge consumers for cleanup costs projected as high as $10 billion. Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good suggested in March that customers shoulder most of the costs.

Good said late Wednesday the legislative approval gives the utility direction with stronger standards. "We will immediately begin adapting our strategy to meet the requirements," she said in a prepared statement.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, a former national president of the Sierra Club and a lead House negotiator on the bill, said lawmakers can take up the issue of who pays when they return next January.

The compromise legislation tries to solve a testy issue: allowing "low risk" ash dumps to be capped with plastic sheeting and dirt. Environmentalists want all the ash dug up and moved to lined landfills away from rivers and lakes. The new version directs Duke Energy to move low-lying dumps if there is significant risk of groundwater contamination.

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