More than three weeks after millions of gallons of coal ash and water flowed out of a leaking pipe into the Dan River, Gov. Pat McCrory has asked Duke Energy to move remaining coal ash ponds in other parts of the state away from drinking water sources.
The request is a welcome, if belated move. McCrory’s letter advises Duke to provide information about options, costs and other details about the coal ash ponds to the N.C.Department of Environment and Natural Resources by March 15. But McCrory has not outlined any consequences if Duke fails to comply, and his request seems tepid in light of the seriousness of the Dan River spill.
McCrory and DENR Secretary John Skvarla entered office with a pledge to reduce the amount of red tape faced by businesses and industries when it comes to environmental regulations. Almost anyone in business has a certain degree of empathy, considering the number of guidelines that sometimes seem to micromanage operations. But the Dan River spill should serve as a red alert to the governor and to DENR that the safety and needs of the people and wildlife of North Carolina must come first.
The Dan River spill has taken too long to address in a meaningful manner, and we worry there isn’t enough toughness in McCrory’s correspondence with Duke Energy. The fact that McCrory worked for Duke for 28 years further complicates the perception of how well the governor has handled this emergency.
McCrory and DENR could ask a court to order Duke to move the coal ash ponds that remain at 14 other plants in North Carolina and turn over any other information related to the issue.
Hopefully, a court order won’t be necessary. But it’s past time for the governor and DENR to demonstrate through their actions that the safety and welfare of people and wildlife are in good hands.