Finish coal ash bill, NC Senate leader Berger says

08/15/2014 7:10 PM

02/03/2015 6:57 PM

N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger said Friday he would still like to complete coal ash legislation in November, despite signs from the House that won’t happen.

“Senate’s strong preference to come back in November to address coal ash and Medicaid reform has NOT changed,” Berger tweeted late in the afternoon. “House has choice.”

But House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Huntersville Republican, announced on the floor earlier Friday that the House would instead choose to adjourn the session.

The House has scheduled adjournment resolutions for its Monday session. The Senate also will convene then.

Coal ash was one of the legislature’s top priorities. A Duke Energy coal ash pond in Eden, Berger’s hometown, dumped up to 39 tons of ash into the Dan River in February.

Both the House and Senate versions put Duke on a 15-year track to drain water from its ash ponds.

Conferees appeared on track to resolve differences between the chambers until Aug. 1, when Senate leaders claimed House members “went rogue” by adding a late provision to the bill. The addition would have prevented capping ash in place where water tables are high.

Gov. Pat McCrory issued an executive order to begin work on removing ash from Duke’s 33 ash ponds when the legislature went home without a compromise.

The state environment department followed the order this week by asking Duke to submit plans for excavating ash from four high-priority sites by Nov. 15.

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