- North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) on Monday vetoed Senate Bill 71, which seeks to reestablish the state's formerly disbanded North Carolina Coal Ash Commission, and claimed that the bill would be bad for the environment and represent an overreach of the Legislature's authority, The Raleigh News & Observer reported.
- The state legislature has enough votes to override the veto for the bill, which passed both chambers with bipartisan support. House Rep. Chuck McGrady (R), who pioneered the legislation, expects the General Assembly to follow through with the override, according to ABC News.
- Duke Energy, one of the largest stakeholders in the North Carolina coal ash industry with 14 coal ash ponds throughout the state, believes that the bill would be good for the environment and publicly endorsed the legislation in a press release.
Governor McCrory's veto of Senate Bill 71 is no surprise, as the governor had publicly announced that he would veto the legislation if it landed on his desk. His objections to the bill are the same as when he first challenged the constitutionality of the commission earlier this year in the state's supreme court. The challenge led to the commission being abruptly shut down earlier this year.
This time around, McCrory said in a statement to the news outlet that the bill is "not good for the environment" and lacked a solid deadline to connect well owners to alternate water supplies.
Even so, the bill requires Duke Energy to pay for the installation of municipal water lines or filtration systems for more than 900 homes within the near vicinity of each of the company's coal ash basins.
"We don't understand why the Governor would veto a bill that makes North Carolina's Coal Ash law even stronger. 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."
North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Secretary Donald van der Vaart wrote in a letter last month to House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger that the bill actually undermines the 2014 Coal Ash Management Act, which was a response to Duke Energy's Dan River Spill. He says that the proposal doesn't give Duke Energy a deadline to come up with a plan to ensure an alternative water supply, and a permanent supply of alternative water isn't guaranteed if it costs Duke too much money.
"The department cannot support this proposal because it substantially weakens environmental protections contained in the current law," van der Vaart wrote.