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Coal ash bill passes Senate, ratepayers may still pay

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The Senate debates a bill requiring Duke Energy clean up all of its coal ash ponds in North Carolina. The Senate debates a bill requiring Duke Energy clean up all of its coal ash ponds in North Carolina.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The North Carolina Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would force Duke Energy to close all of its coal ash ponds by 2029. But the question still stands: Who will pay for it?

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have an obligation as the General Assembly, as the law making body to step up," said Sen. Mike Woodard (D-Durham).

Woodard offered up an amendment to SB 729 that would have required Duke Energy to pay for closing and cleaning up its 33 ponds, but Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) argued that's a job for the Utilities Commission.

"I think that's what the Utilities Commission is charged with, to make those decisions," Apodaca said. Instead, Apodaca offered a sub-amendment, which included longer coal ash monitoring, but did not require Duke to pay for cleanup.

"We all know what's happening here," said Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake). "You had an opportunity to be clear to your voters, the people of North Carolina, to the ratepayers who would have to bear the costs."

Stein suggested that Apodaca separate his amendment from Woodard's so both could be voted on. Apodaca refused and the sub-amendment passed 33 to 13.

The final bill passed unanimously. It now heads to the House for debate.

If the proposal for a rate increase does surface, Attorney General Roy Cooper said he'll fight it.

"The legislature should say so now. If it goes to the Utilities Commission, it's quite possible that consumers will pay part if not all of the cleanup costs," Cooper said.

Duke Energy estimates cleanup costs could reach up to $10 billion.

"It is something that they can handle. Working families, businesses, people having to pay these utility bills should not be responsible for this," Cooper added.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Jonathan Rodriguez

Jonathan Rodriguez is an investigative reporter and member of the WNCN Investigates team. His storytelling specialty is connecting the dots to get to the truth, with a goal of delivering results for our community. If you have something you’d like WNCN to investigate, contact Jonathan.

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