Coal ash bill stalled

Jun. 26, 2014 @ 06:58 PM

A coal ash bill filed in the state House by Guilford County Rep. Pricey Harrison — and co-sponsored by Nathan Baskerville — last month would prohibit Duke Energy from passing the costs of the clean-up onto its customers by increasing rates.

House Bill 1226 has been stalled in the Committee on Public Utilities and Energy since the bill was referred there May 28.

HB 1226 prevents any electric public utility from recovering the costs associated with site closures and ancillary clean-up from retail electric customers, said Baskerville, whose district includes Vance, Warren and Granville counties.

“Our bill also puts in deadlines for closing the four most high risk ash ponds by 2017 and all coal ash ponds, depending on risk levels, between 2019 and 2029,” he wrote in an email. “It also requires all coal ash to be buried in lined landfills on the same property as the ash storage pond. That prevents Duke from trucking thousands of tons coal ash across our state and dumping it in rural poor areas like ours.”

The bill also bans the construction of any new ash ponds.

On Tuesday, senators unanimously approved a bill that orders Duke Energy to close all coal ash ponds in the state by 2029, but the Republican Senate Rules Committee chairman blocked an amendment that would have prevented the utility from seeking a rate hike.

The bill — sponsored by Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican from Rockingham County, where the spill happened Feb. 2, and Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Henderson County — requires Duke to place ash from ponds at four of its plants into lined landfills or sell it for reuse by the construction industry within five years.

The Senate bill has gone to the House for approval, but representatives could put forth their own bill, instead.

Baskerville said he couldn’t vote for a coal ash bill that does not protect customers from footing the bill of the cleanup.

He said McCrory’s proposed coal ash bill is inadequate because it does not require Duke to clean up of all the utility’s ash ponds; it also allows Duke to leave the coal ash ponds in place, merely capped to keep out water.

A massive spill of coal ash in Eden coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge. Samples from Kerr Lake, which serves about 60,000 customers, so far have returned no results suggesting danger to those drinking water or recreational swimmers.

Baskerville drafted his own version of the coal ash bill, but it was not eligible for introduction during the legislative short session because it did not directly affect the budget.

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.