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North Carolina editorial roundup
Question of the Day
Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
News Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina, on coal-ash cleanup:
Well, it’s progress. The state Senate has improved some proposals on regulating power plant residue. A huge spill in February dumped 39,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of wastewater into the Dan River, and Duke Energy’s coal ash disposal has been Topic A in Raleigh since.
Gov. Pat McCrory, himself a long-time employee of Duke until his retirement, came up with a plan for regulation and cleanup that was underwhelming.
The goals of any regulatory plan are simply these: Duke has to determine and implement a better and safer disposal method. Duke must clean up what has happened without burdening ratepayers with the tab. The state must establish strict regulatory oversight of residue disposal to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Those responsible must be held to answer in a thorough investigation.
Because Republicans have done their best to do away with as many environmental regulations as possible since taking over the General Assembly, they now face a special test. They have long claimed they are pro-business, not anti-environmental regulation. But their actions have not indicated much interest in balancing the needs of business with the need to protect the state’s valuable, and finite, natural resources.
So here’s the test: The coal ash spill stirred a lot of public interest in seeing that Duke Energy take care of this problem. Fouled rivers have a way of getting people’s attention. Republicans now have a real chance to demonstrate their commitment to environmental safety.
The Senate has a coal ash bill that would demand closure of all 33 coal ash storage ponds in the state within 15 years and establish a commission to oversee those plans and look for alternatives to using coal ash in construction to help get rid of 100 million tons of the stuff.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, a likely Democratic candidate for governor in 2016, also has put Republicans on the spot by saying what many residents are thinking: Duke and its shareholders should pay the costs of coal ash cleanup and not put it on consumers.
The coal ash crisis was long in coming, an environmental hazard waiting to happen. The state must not go easily or too patiently into the world of regulating something that clearly hasn’t been regulated enough, if at all.
This was not the GOP’s mess. But it is the GOP’s test.
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