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Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, worried that Monday’s about-face might be just another tactic by the state to help Duke avoid paying for the harm it has done to the North Carolina’s rivers and lakes.

“Instead of taking action to clean up coal ash pollution and protect the public, DENR is going back to the drawing board and proposing to delay action for who knows how long,” Holleman said. “It is time to act, not to delay.”

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Associated Press writer Mitch Weiss reported from Greenville, S.C.

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Follow Michael Biesecker at Twitter.com/mbieseck