Last week, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released a declaration regarding the disposal of coal ash at sites operated by Duke Energy in North Carolina. After a careful review of the recommendations, which require the complete closure of all Duke Energy coal ash sites within the next eight years, the NC Chamber has determined that they would impose irrational and unforeseen costs in the remediation efforts and send a chilling message to the state’s regulated community, as well as any company looking to expand in North Carolina.
Earlier this afternoon, Lew Ebert, president and CEO of the Chamber, sent this letter to legislative leadership asking them to take action before the end of the current legislative session to address this issue. Legislation which passed previously in 2014 (Coal Ash Management Act of 2014) already included an aggressive, yet reasonable, program of scientific evaluations, engineering assessments, and site categorization to close all ash basins in North Carolina. Those programs identified four coal ash sites as high priority and subject to closure no later than August of 2019, outlining a remediation process which Duke Energy has subsequently acted in full faith to fulfill. The most recent declaration by DEQ would not only interrupt the progress that has already been made toward coal ash disposal at Duke Energy sites; it also signals that DEQ is willing to ignore sound science and careful data analysis in favor of rushing to propose a plan that needlessly burdens the state for decades to come.
Affordable energy prices for job creators and consumers are essential in order to ensure we remain competitive for new job creation. However, the declaration by DEQ would end up resulting in the most expensive possible outcome for all utility customers in North Carolina. In urging elected leaders to work to address this issue, the NC Chamber is recommending proceeding with the smart strategy originally envisioned and outlined by the Coal Ash Management Act, establishing a Coal Ash Management Commission which:
- Identifies coal ash sites which pose a serious threat to public health and the environment
- Identifies safe and cost effective cleanup options for each site
- Proceeds in a timeframe which is appropriate given the necessary data collection and cleanup steps needed for effective closure
If the recent declaration by DEQ is allowed to take effect, the legal and regulatory balance – and competitive statewide business climate – that North Carolina’s leaders have worked so hard to achieve in recent sessions will suffer a significant setback. We are confident that leaders in the General Assembly will continue to show the courage they have displayed in fighting for pro-growth policies in North Carolina by acting in the remaining days of the 2016 short session to address this critical job competitiveness issue.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber