One of the pressing needs facing the N.C. General Assembly in its short session this year centered on a product few of us were familiar with before February -- coal ash.
The collapse of a storage pond caused a giant spill of the stuff -- a waste byproduct at coal-burning power plants -- that threatened wildlife and drinking water sources fed by the Dan River.
The General Assembly convened for its short session in May with Republican leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory vowing to make Duke Energy clean up its mess -- not just at the Dan River site but at some 30 other coal ash repositories scattered throughout North Carolina.
Like so many other issues this year, legislation to resolve the coal ash emergency stalled as the House, Senate and governor bickered over competing plans. But to the legislature’s credit, lawmakers cobbled together a tough piece of legislation last week that addressed the Duke issue meaningfully just before adjournment.
The bill is not perfect, but few pieces of legislation ever are. Still, it sets deadlines for Duke to clean up the remaining ponds and is significant for putting the safety of North Carolina drinking water and the environment before other interests.
Creating legislation can be an ugly, contentious business, even when everyone is a member of the same party.
Future legislatures probably will be asked to tweak and update the coal ash legislation of 2014.
But passing a bill to address cleanup and safety was critical. It couldn’t wait. For that, North Carolina legislators are to be thanked and commended.