Coal Ash bill moves in General Assembly

House Bill 2012: Regulate Certain Coal-Ash Structural Fill

Late last night House bill 2012/Senate bill 1419, Regulate Certain Coal-Ash Structural Fill, was filed. Primary sponsors being Representatives Harrison, Luebke, Fisher and Insko, the bill requires the possession of a permit by solid waste disposal sites for the reuse or disposal of certain solid wastes in order to protect both the public health and the environment. Specifically, this legislation would, for the first time, regulate the way in which dry coal ash is handled, dealt with, and stored.

As we all know power plants that burn coal, emit coal ash waste. Coal ash is primarily composed of heavy metals like mercury, selenium, cadmium and arsenic. Exposure to these metals can potentially lead to cancer and nervous system damage.

Although the EPA is working to regulate coal ash, currently it is not designated as a hazardous material. As a result, the use and storage of coal ash takes place with absolutely zero oversight. The figures associated with coal ash production in North Carolina are significant. North Carolina is the second highest importer of coal, spending nearly $2.3 billion yearly. NC spending per capita on coal was approximately $254 per person in 2008, the third largest of any state, while per capita spending on energy efficiency was roughly $0.75 per person, the national average being $7.

Between 2008 and 2009 North Carolina power plants produced approximately 3.8 million tons of dry coal ash. Over 800,000 tons was used as fill material, greater than one million tons was used as in road paving projects, as a soil additives,or as a manufacturing ingredients. The remaining 1.7 million tons were disposed of in landfills or wet ponds. House Bill 2012 will for the first time offer a mechanism to regulate the disposal of dry coal ash. The Sierra Club fully supports this bill and will advocate for it throughout the session. Although the EPA continues to delay action on this issue, perhaps North Carolina will move first.

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