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Hotlist 5/25/16: Vote No on SB71

It is time to take real action on coal ash instead of continually failing to hold Duke Energy accountable. Please vote NO on Senate Bill 71.

As a reminder: coal ash is a toxic by-product of coal combustion as a result of the electricity generation process. The EPA currently regulates coal ash and has tasked those responsible for its discharge to be held accountable. Here in North Carolina, we should be particularly concerned with coal ash as the utility Duke Energy stands responsible for 33 coal ash dumps across our state.

In a recent report, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) designated that all of the coal ash ponds in North Carolina are classified as intermediate or high-risk sites, which requires Duke Energy to excavate and remove the coal ash from these sites. Duke Energy clearly did not find this outcome favorable.

Yesterday, Senate Bill 71 was rewritten to require reopening the coal ash pond classifications, which could result in some of the coal ash ponds being designated as “low-risk” sites due to pressure from Duke Energy. S71 was pushed through the Rules Committee yesterday and the Appropriations Committee this morning. It is set to be debated on the House floor this afternoon.

There are several concerns with this bill:

By passing this bill, DEQ’s classifications will not be final, which will give Duke Energy the opportunity to avoid accountability for the harm it is inflicting on North Carolina residents through exposure to coal ash.

S71 further delays the time in which Duke Energy needs to take action to clean up coal ash ponds. This further jeopardizes North Carolinians’ health and water quality.

While the bill does require that Duke Energy provide clean water lines to residents whose water supply has been affected by coal ash, it does not specify whether this cost will be passed on to ratepayers. Additionally, Duke Energy has publicly announced that this is a measure the company had already planned to take, making the inclusion of this language in the bill most likely posturing by the legislature.

S71 is a clear attempt by Duke Energy and its friends in the legislature to skirt responsibility for the toxic coal ash ponds in North Carolina. It is time to stop delaying the actions needed to protect the health and well-being of North Carolina residents. Do not let Duke Energy continue to avoid taking responsibility for its actions.

Vote NO on Senate Bill 71.

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