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McCrory unveils plan to tighten regulations on coal ash

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Gov. Pat McCrory Gov. Pat McCrory
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RALEIGH, N.C. - Gov. Pat McCrory announced on Wednesday a plan to add positions to enforce environmental regulations and close or convert all of the state’s 33 coal ash ponds.

McCrory’s news release said the plan would close loopholes in the state law to strengthen the state’s ability to regulate the ponds and eliminate special exemptions for utilities.

"Since taking office in January 2013, my administration has discovered a number of long-standing shortcomings in state law that hamper our ability to adequately protect public health and the environment in addition to dealing with emergencies when they happen," McCrory said in a statement. "We need to close these loopholes and give our regulators the tools they need to solve this more than 60-year-old coal ash problem."

McCrory said his proposed budget for 2014-15 will fund 19 additional positions to help enforce environmental protections.

McCrory said he called on legislators to work with him when the General Assembly returns to work in May.

"I know that the public and the General Assembly share our concerns about coal ash, and I ask them to work with me to make sure we tackle this problem head-on to address long-standing problems caused by the ash basins," McCrory said.

McCrory would not discuss specifics of his plan when asked by reporters at an event in Raleigh Wednesday, and staff members said some specifics were not immediately available.

McCrory's staff released a draft of the legislation Thursday. You can read the proposal here.

McCrory's handling of the coal ash spill by Duke Energy, his former employer, has been the subject of intense scrutiny in North Carolina.

A lengthy New York Times report, published in February, wrote, "Current and former state regulators said the watchdog agency, once among the most aggressive in the Southeast, has been transformed under Gov. Pat McCrory into a weak sentry that plays down science, has abandoned its regulatory role and suffers from politicized decision-making."

And McCrory cut off a reporter in a February news conference when the reporter pressed him on his relationship with Duke Energy at a news conference about the winter storm.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

REACTION TO McCRORY'S PLAN

"We look forward to studying Governor McCrory's coal ash disposal plan.  It appears to compliment [sic] the work the legislature has been doing to ensure that we have both short-term fixes as well as long-term solutions to eliminate the threat of coal ash to North Carolina's waterways."
_ Representatives Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg), Mike Hager (R-Rutherford) and Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) of the House Environmental Review Commission.



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