Duke’s CEO met with NC Senate leaders on coal ash

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good
Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good met Wednesday with leaders of the state Senate as legislators pondered a coal ash cleanup bill, Raleigh’s WRAL reported.

Good and a Duke lobbyist met for about 20 minutes with Senate leader Phil Berger and Sen. Tom Apodaca, who chairs the powerful rules committee, the station reported.

Legislators are debating the cleanup of Duke’s 111 million tons of coal ash, which contains potentially toxic metals that have contaminated groundwater under its power plants.

On Thursday, Berger’s office said lawmakers won’t vote on an override of Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of an ash bill passed last week. Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican who authored the bill, told Raleigh’s News & Observer that new legislation will be written to avoid the veto override.

The vetoed measure re-creates an ash oversight panel, expands review of risk ratings that will guide cleanup and requires Duke to connect private wells near its ash ponds to municipal water systems. McCrory argued that the bill weakens environmental protections, will delay water connections for well owners and violates the state constitution.

Duke supports the bill, saying it allows more options in disposing of ash. Cleanup costs that some experts estimate at up to $20 billion may be passed to customers.

“We don’t understand why the governor would veto a bill that makes North Carolina’s coal ash law even stronger,” the company said earlier this week.

Apodaca told WRAL that Wednesday’s meeting with Good was not about the bill but “the future of coal ash in the state and how we’re going to deal with it.”

Berger’s office said Thursday that the purpose of the meeting was to tell Duke “it is unlikely the Senate will act on the company’s request to override the governor’s veto” as it works with McCrory to resolve his concerns.

Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks said “Duke Energy supports common sense solutions that offer the widest range of options to protect the environment, people and their pocketbooks. That is what’s best for North Carolina, and we look forward to working with the General Assembly, the governor and anyone else who wants to achieve that.”

Good met with McCrory and his top staff for dinner a year ago, as legal and regulatory issues swirled around ash. Neither side would reveal what was discussed.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender