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Headline Roundup: Duke Energy To Repurpose Coal Ash; Pedestrian Bridge Collapse Kills One; More

Duke Energy plans to repurpose millions of tons of coal ash – excavating it from waste ponds around the state and using it to fill in old mines. The company released plans today it says will get a head start on removing the ash from four coal plants, including the Riverbend power plant next to Mountain Island Lake.

A state law passed in July requires removal of all ash from those sites. Duke says it will move one million tons of ash from Riverbend – or about a fifth of the ash at the plant. Most of that will be used at mine reclamation projects in Moncure and Sanford, southwest of Raleigh. About ten percent will be used to make concrete, where coal ash is a common ingredient.

Duke says the mines already have railways leading to them, which will reduce truck traffic. The plan still requires state approval. Duke still has to release further plans to remove the rest of the ash—state lawmakers gave the company until 2019 to excavate all of it.

Pending Settlement Will Protect Red Wolves
A pending settlement between conservation groups and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission would address one major concern about protection of endangered Red Wolves in the eastern part of the state. The agreement imposes a ban on night-hunting of coyotes in a five-county Red Wolf Recovery area.  

Red Wolves and coyotes are similar in appearance, and conservationists say 51 of the wolves have died from confirmed or suspected gunshots since 2008. A federal judge yesterday indicated he will approve the settlement, including the ban on using spotlights to hunt coyotes at night.  However, the agreement would allow daytime coyote hunting on private land within the recovery area. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been reviewing its Red Wolf Recovery Program and has said it will consider all options regarding the program’s future.  

Pedestrian Bridge Collapse Kills One
One worker was killed and four others were injured this morning in the collapse of a pedestrian bridge on Wake Tech’s northern campus in Raleigh. The bridge was still under construction and was not open to the public. The bridge project was part of improvements to the campus funded by a 2012 bond referendum. 

Republican Legislators Setzer And Blust Seek To Replace Tillis As House Speaker
Two more Republican legislators say they want to be Speaker of the North Carolina House next year. Mitchelll Setzer of Catawba County and John Blust of Greensboro are entering the race to replace Thom Tillis. Tillis will be sworn into the U.S. Senate in January. At least four other state representatives have expressed interest in the speakership.

The GOP caucus meets Saturday in Raleigh to hear from the candidates. Legislators are expected to vote on a nominee the following Saturday. That nominee will still have to be confirmed by the state House in January.

McCrory Pledges To Expand Veterans' Rehab Program
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory pledges to expand the state’s veterans’ court treatment program. The first program launched last year in Harnett County. It graduated its first class yesterday. Today, a similar program launches in Cumberland County.

The rehab program helps veterans avoid a criminal conviction by providing help for common problems including post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism.

McCrory says he wants to make North Carolina more veteran friendly so military personnel will stick around after they leave the service. 

Fort Bragg Airman Wins Second Silver Star
A Fort Bragg airman has earned a second Silver Star. Master Sergeant Thomas Case will receive the medal during a ceremony today at Pope Field. He’s the third Air Force member ever to earn two of the medals. 

The Silver Star is the third-highest military combat decoration. Case receives today’s medal for his actions in Afghanistan in 2009.  His first Silver Star was from combat actions in 2003.

NC Quick Pass Will Work In GA, FL
If you have a North Carolina Quick Pass transponder for your car you can use it outside the state as well.  The state DOT says you can use the Quick Pass on I-85 Express Lanes near Atlanta. It will also be good for any future toll roads that accept the Georgia Peach Pass transponder. 

An agreement between North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida allows owners of toll transponders in each of those states to use them when traveling in the other two states. N.C. Quick Pass has had such an agreement with Florida and its SunPass system the summer of 2013. 

SC Panel Considers Medical Marijuana Use
A legislative panel in South Carolina meets today to look at the use of medical marijuana in the state. The General Assembly created the committee earlier this year to study how marijuana could be produced and distributed in the state for medical purposes. The panel will report back on revenue that could be generated from marijuana sales and on the impact producing it in South Carolina could have on public health.

Today’s meeting is in Greenville; there’s another session set for next month in Florence. The committee met last month in Charleston.