ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County’s state senator wants Duke Energy to make coal ash cleanup along the Yadkin-Pee Dee River a top priority.
State Sen. Gene McLaurin, D-Richmond, proposed an amendment to the coal ash cleanup bill that would place three Buck Plant coal ash ponds in Rowan County near the top of Duke Energy’s list. Lawmakers did not adopt the amendment, but McLaurin said the bill that cleared the Senate on Wednesday a “good-faith first step.”
“This river supplies drinking water to a majority of citizens in my district,” McLaurin said in a statement. “I have talked personally to families living nearby the Buck Plant who have experienced higher than acceptable levels of hexavalent chromium and other metals in their well water. They deserve clean water.”
North Carolina lawmakers won’t require Duke Energy to clean up the Yadkin-Pee Dee River first, but the proposed amendment communicated McLaurin’s wishes to the public and executives at the Charlotte-based electric company.
The coal ash cleanup legislation, Senate Bill 729, requires Duke Energy to close its North Carolina coal ash pits within 15 years. The bill is now in the N.C. House after the Senate gave its unanimous final approval on Wednesday.
“While the amendment failed, I am confident this bill takes the right initial steps toward a comprehensive clean-up of coal ash,” McLaurin said. “For me, this is not about politics. This is about protecting clean drinking water for families in Anson, Richmond, Stanly, Scotland, and Rowan counties. I remain committed to protecting our families and ensuring that the cost of this cleanup does not fall on the backs of hardworking people.”
Senators adopted several amendments to the coal ash bill before Wednesday’s final vote. The measure was debated extensively on Tuesday.
“Since the February 2014 coal ash spill on the Dan River, we have learned a lot about coal ash ponds in our state and the dangers of coal ash spilling or seeping into groundwater,” McLaurin said.
Top Senate Republicans have shepherded the bill, which requires Duke to place ash from dumps at four plants into lined landfills or sell it for the construction industry within five years. A new commission would decide how to dispose of ash at 10 remaining plants by 2029.
Senate Democrats voted for the bill but said it didn’t go far enough following the coal ash spill on the Dan River.
Gov. Pat McCrory would be asked to sign any measure into law.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.