It seemed fitting that the Environmental Review Commission (the Commission), met yesterday, Earth Day, for its last scheduled meeting before the start of the 2014 short session. Yesterday's meeting was chaired by Representative Ruth Samuelson. The Commission heard presentations from Tom Reeder, Director of the Division of Water Resources at DENR, Paul Newton, North Carolina State President of Duke Energy, Edward Finley, Jr., Chairman of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, and Chris Ayers, Executive Director of the North Carolina Utilities Commission Public Staff. At the close of the meeting the Chairwoman entertained public comment for close to an hour.
Duke Energy presented its support for a coal ash plan that could potentially incorporate several options into one solution and addresses, not only the Dan River, but other active and retired sites. Duke Energy presented three scenarios to the committee. The first plan, costing $2.0-2.5 billion, 1) incorporates the use of hybrid caps in places of the closure of some sites, 2) moves some sites to new lined structural fills or landfills, 3) continues the Asheville structural fill, and 4) converts some sites to dry fly ash. The second plan, costing $6.0-8.0 billion, would incrementally excavate ash from 10 sites to landfills over a 20 to 30 year period. The third plan, costing $7.0-10.0 billion, would incrementally move the ash to all-dry pneumatic bottom ash handling systems and include the thermally-driven evaporation of other process water. Mr. Newton stated Duke believed the answer was somewhere between the first and second options.
The Sierra Club urged that the General Assembly set minimum standards for the closure of coal ash ponds such that Duke Energy could propose alternatives that adequately demonstrate effective protection of water supplies. The Sierra Club also asked the legislature to bring coal ash under its waste management laws, since North Carolina is the only state that does not treat wet coal ash as solid waste. Finally, the Sierra Club asked legislators to regulate structural fills and require liners and groundwater monitoring when coal ash is used as structural fill.
Other speakers asked the Commission to require the drainage and removal of coal ash from all open coal ash pits and the storage of all coal ash in dry, sealed above-ground containers or the reuse of the ash in products such as concrete.
The Commission did not take any votes and did not introduce any potential legislation. The Commission had previously met on April 9th of this month and voted to approve its final report for the 2014 short session, which includes the Commission's legislative proposals.