Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday that he wants to "keep the politics out" of the decision of who pays for cleaning up coal ash sites across North Carolina.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is expected to challenge McCrory for governor in 2016, said earlier in the day that he's opposed to allowing Duke Energy to charge utility customers for the removal of its coal ash ponds.
On Friday, Duke Chief Executive Lynn Good said the utility will foot the cleanup bill for last month's ash spill in the Dan River, but the company will seek to "recover" costs from consumers if it's required to remove or relocate coal ash from 14 sites around the state.
"We've got to go through the process and understand that the Utilities Commission is the commission that needs to make these very difficult decisions, and one of the things we are going to do is keep the politics out of this very serious environmental problem," McCrory said.
The North Carolina Utilities Commission, a seven-member regulatory board, would have to approve any requested surcharge or rate increases to recover cleanup costs. Duke Chief Financial Officer Steve Young noted on a Feb. 18 earnings call with stock analysts that the state tends to approve recovery for environmental remediation.
Three of the seven current members were appointed by McCrory, and another three were appointed by former Govs. Mike Easley and Bev Perdue. The chairman, Ed Finley, was originally appointed by Easley and then reappointed as chairman by McCrory last July.
Cooper, said he doesn't believe Duke should be allowed to recover any costs for removing its coal ash ponds.
"Duke Energy should clean up the coal ash at its own expense, and we will fight for consumers if the company tries to charge them,” Cooper said in a statement.
McCrory said the cleanup cost is only one step in the process for dealing with the toxic ash.
"We are going to deal with it, we are going to clean it up and we are going to have a long-term policy to make sure that it doesn't happen again," he said. "Then I will have the commission that is responsible for figuring out who pays for it make the tough decision that they need to make."