Gov. Pat McCrory has vetoed a bill which would alter the language of the Coal Ash Management Act, citing damages the bill could do the state’s environment and constitutional worries.
“This legislation is not good for the environment or for the rule of law in North Carolina,” said Governor McCrory in a press release issued Monday night. “This bill lacks a firm deadline to connect well owners to alternate water supplies.”
He said his administration would ask a court to require Duke Energy to meet an accelerated timeline for connecting alternate water supplies and seek a court order to ensure that dam repairs are completed and coal ash is reused in an environmentally-sound way.
The governor argues that Senate Bill 71, which passed both houses of the General Assembly by a wide margin, disregards a recent and decisive 6-1 North Carolina Supreme Court ruling which declared the three commissions at issue in the bill unconstitutional.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Duke Energy said they were in support of the bill and confused by McCrory’s veto.
“We don’t understand why the Governor would veto a bill that makes North Carolina’s Coal Ash law even stronger,” reads the release. “Very importantly, it reconstitutes a Commission that will evaluate the safety and cost of any closure plan on customers. The legislation gives our state the flexibility to make better basin closure decisions based on new information and the completion of facility improvement projects. Senate Bill 71 also encourages safe recycling of coal ash, which is non-hazardous, and gives plant neighbors certainty about their water quality.”
The General Assembly can override the Governor’s veto with 72 votes in the House and 30 votes in the Senate. Senate Bill 71 initially passed the House on an 84-25 vote and the Senate on a 47-1 vote.
A number of environmental groups which had battled coal ash, including Appalachian Voices and the Southern Environmental Law Center, have said the bill would negate recent ash basin risk assessments by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Equality which would require excavation of basins throughout the state.
Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Frank Holleman blasted the bill as a bailout for Duke Energy.
“This is a bill designed to bail out Duke Energy, but the legislature is including drinking water provisions as a cover in an election year,” he said. “If the legislature truly wants to help out the local communities, it could pass a bill that only requires Duke Energy to provide these families a supply of safe, clean, safe drinking water. Instead, the legislature is passing a wolf in sheep’s clothing, to help out Duke Energy.”
91st District Representative Kyle Hall said he had voted against the bill over a variety of concerns.
“While I agree with this bill’s intent to safeguard our state’s water supply, it does not guarantee everyone within the vicinity of coal ash sites would be protected,” said Hall. “In addition, I believe this bill creates a new level of unnecessary bureaucracy rather than simply dealing with the issue of coal ash cleanup. My biggest objection with the bill, however, centered on the provision reactivating the Mining Commission. As you may know, state law requires the Mining Commission to approve hydraulic fracturing (fracking) sites. If the Mining Commission is active, fracking could occur in North Carolina.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.