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McCrory Issues Executive Order After Coal Ash Stalls

Alexia Gyorody

After negotiations between the state House and Senate broke down last night, Governor Pat McCrory issued an executive order about coal ash, stored by Duke Energy in ponds near waterways around the state.

Lawmakers failed to reach a compromise before the Senate adjourned for weeks, leaving one of the administration’s top priorities hanging until November. McCrory says the state environment agency will not have to wait.

“Today I will issue an executive order to ensure that we do not lose any time attacking the problem,” the governor said. “Executive Order 62 will direct the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to continue to implement all regulations as laws.”

McCrory says the department will begin testing the groundwater around coal ash ponds for pollution, which regulators and Duke Energy describe as the first step in the process.

But environmental groups say the governor is creating red tape where none exists.

“It’s almost silly to think you have to issue such an order,” says Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, who has sued both the state and Duke Energy about coal ash storage.

Holleman says North Carolina needs neither a bill nor an executive order to close the ash ponds.

“He’s purporting to tell the people who work for him to obey the law,” he says.

A judge ruled earlier this year that a current state law requires regulators to immediately halt pollution caused by coal ash.

One of the bills under consideration in the legislature would change that law.

In a press release after the announcement, the governor says the executive order is not a substitute for legislation. He says stricter dam safety regulations and rules governing the use of coal ash in construction require action from lawmakers.