Martin calls for coal ash compromise

Posted August 18, 2014
Updated August 19, 2014

As the state legislature continues to idle over a stalemate among House and Senate Republicans, a Wake County lawmaker is calling for action on a stalled coal ash clean-up plan.

After the Dan River coal ash spill in February, House and Senate leaders agreed that legislation to address the state’s 33 coal ash ponds was one of the session’s top priorities. But negotiations over the differences in the two chambers’ proposals broke down at the end of July.

Senate Leader Phil Berger has said he’d like lawmakers to come back November 17th, after the fall elections, to address both the coal ash plan and Medicaid reform.  But House Speaker Thom Tillis said Friday the House prefers to adjourn sine die this week and skip the November session, pushing the bill to 2015 instead.

Governor Pat McCrory has issued an executive order calling for clean-up assessments to begin at the state’s four most-hazardous ash ponds. Duke Energy, which owns all 33 ponds, has already announced plans to clean out those four and begin the process of closing others. But environmental advocates say neither option carries much weight or accountability, and neither will protect Duke customers from bearing the cost of the clean-up.

Rep. Grier Martin, who received an award Monday from the League of Conservation Voters, insisted there is still time in the waning days of the session for House and Senate negotiators to bridge their differences.

“There is no debate that there has been a failure to fix the coal ash problem,” he said.

Martin, a Democrat, insisted the problem is not partisan.

“There are some great Republicans who are working hard to fix the coal ash problem,” he said, naming Reps. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, and Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg. “Their dedication to this cause and their true passion for it cannot be questioned at all.”

“In the end, it is not a partisan failure. It is a leadership failure. It is a failure by Speaker Tillis, it is a failure by Senator Berger, and it is a failure by Governor McCrory,” Martin said. “If we leave town without a fix for the coal ash problem, I sincerely hope that the voters will understand that and hold those responsible at the voting booth in November. “

Martin also spoke against waiting until a November special session to finish work on a deal.

“The voters expected us to fix the problem, and fix the problem promptly,” he said. “The leadership knows that the fix that’s likely to pass is not going to satisfy the voters that it adequately protects them, and so they want to implement that legislation after the elections in November, when they can no longer be held accountable for it.”

Senate leaders have said delaying the measure until a November special session would allow greater focus on the issue, while providing time to work out remaining differences over timelines, definitions, and oversight.

But Tillis said Friday that if lawmakers were going to wait until November, there would be little difference in waiting till January instead, when the new session – and new lawmakers – could take up the issue.  

Meantime, Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Frank Holleman agreed legislators should pass a plan promptly to "require Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash pollution in all 14 communities across North Carolina," but cautioned that the two proposals to date would weaken state water protections.

"To date, the bills passed by the House and the Senate are not clean up bills," Holleman said. "The Legislature should pass a bill that truly cleans up Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution and not a bill that weakens North Carolina’s clean water laws. We want a clean up bill, but not a step backwards with the label 'Coal Ash' on it."


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  • miseem Aug 19, 2014

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    Exactly. ALEC, Duke Power and the Koch brothers would not be happy if a corporation were required to clean up their mess, and the voters would not be happy if they were required to bail out corporations again. So the answer is to do nothing. And hope that another pond breach does not occur in the next few weeks. then, if the GOP wins control again, they can saddle the cost to consumers and figure they will forget about it by the time the 2017 elections come around. Actual history, as opposed to what people want to believe is history is not high on voter priority.

  • Teresa Engel Aug 19, 2014
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    I could not have said it better myself. I second this opinion. Well put, Yellow Hat.

  • yellow_hat Aug 19, 2014

    Here is a compromise I am willing to accept - Duke cleans up their pollution at their expense, and we will not sue them. Anything less is unacceptable.

  • heelhawk Aug 19, 2014

    Our groundwater is at risk and our environment is jeopardized, but instead of doing anything about it; the GOP led General Assembly has decided to kick the can down the road so they can raise funds and attempt to get re-elected so they can then kowtow to corporate interests at the expense of the citizens. The GOP is destroying our state and our future.

  • Come On_Seriously Aug 19, 2014

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    Sounds like Tillis sees the writing on the wall that his party has done a terrible job and the voters will be replacing many of them. He's willing to just let it be a democratic problem next session.

    Besides, he's got an election to run for and would rather not have any more of his work come out before then- he doesn't have time for silly little problems like clean water.

  • Kenny Dunn Aug 18, 2014
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    Or, at least there should be no compromise.

  • David Collins Aug 18, 2014
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    Tillis said "if lawmakers were going to wait until November, there would be little difference in waiting till January instead, when the new session – and new lawmakers – could take up the issue".
    Finished the work you started before going to new buisness.

  • UNJUSTIFIED Aug 18, 2014

    Sure, Go ahead and wait...Then when there is another spill, We can prosicute the bums in Raleigh..

  • Jim Frei Aug 18, 2014
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    There is no compromise when it comes to clean safe water.

  • Grand Union Aug 18, 2014

    The Corporate wing of the GOP wants to push this off until past the election so they can ignore it for a few more years and save their paymasters millions....The Tea Party side is not so happy as many of these ponds and rivers are in their backyards.......

    I'm betting corporate side wins this battle.