Budget tweaks pass House committee

Posted February 18, 2015

— A bill making urgent changes to different parts of the current state budget picked up a provision changing the requirements for the owners of certain "high hazard" dams as it cleared the House Appropriations Committee on a voice vote Wednesday.

Senate Bill 14 has already cleared the Senate and will next be heard on the House floor. 

Still included in the bill is a provision that would require the Department of Public Instruction to pay the Rules Review Commission $100,000 to offset legal costs associated with a lawsuit the State Board of Education brought against the commission. In that suit, the board claims that its rules should not be subject to review by the commission.

The board's executive committee met for about 15 minutes Wednesday by phone in relation to that suit but did not make any public comment about the discussion. State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson would not say whether the conversation was related to the Senate bill.

However, the committee did make one change to the lawsuit measure. It gave DPI a greater choice of places from which it could draw money to pay the Rules Review Commission.

Changing dam rules

The measure also still contains a change designed to help the Coal Ash Management Commission to carry out its work by making sure it has adequate funding. 

An amendment by Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, does help out the owners of dams that don't have coal ash.

Goldsboro coal ash pond Coal ash emergency plans arrive ahead of schedule Pete Harrison takes a core sample of the Dan River Duke Energy refused to share possible effects of coal ash dam breaches McGrady explained to the committee that last year's coal ash law accidentally caught up the owners of other "medium hazard" and "high hazard" dams, requiring them to meet the same standards that Duke Energy has to deal with in regard to dams holding back toxic coal residuals. 

The amendment added to the bill Wednesday gives the owners of those other dams more time to file Emergency Action Plans with the state. Those plans sketch out how the state and dam owners should react if there is a breach. The amendment to the bill also specified that the people filing the plans did not have to be licensed engineers. That change was meant to make the plans cheaper and easier to file.

"A lot of these medium- and high-hazard dams are agricultural ponds," McGrady told the committee.


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