A poll taken last week found that most North Carolina voters want lawmakers to do more to get Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash.
Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning Raleigh surveying group, found in a poll of 519 voters that more than 75 percent of North Carolinians don’t think the Legislature has made Duke Energy do enough to clean up coal ash pollution at the state’s 14 coal ash power plants.
The view was consistent across party lines and the poll found that weak leadership on environmental issues was tied to low favorability numbers for Governor Pat McCrory and House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis.
31 percent and 39 percent of respondents said their impressions of McCrory and Tillis were “very unfavorable,” respectively, and 63 percent said Tillis's handling of remaining coal ash threats to the state's waterways make them view him less favorably.
The poll comes as a budget deal—which will finally close out the 2014 long short-legislative session—appears to be in the works.
Current coal ash legislation, which followed Duke Energy’s disastrous Dan River coal ash spill in February, does not require Duke Energy to remove coal ash from unlined storage ponds in the state by set deadlines if the cleanup is deemed too expensive.
The legislation does not mandate that Duke pay for clean up at all, shifting the cost burden onto ratepayers. It requires that only four out 33 coal ash ponds be removed from unlined storage pits near waterways. The other 29 could potentially be capped off and left in place, which environmentalists believe could threaten drinking water.
Duke Energy is cleaning up after the 36,000 tons of coal ash remaining from the Dan River spill; 80 percent of those polled feel that is the right course of action.
80 percent also think state lawmakers should force Duke Energy to clean up all of its coal ash sites, moving the toxic waste away from water sources and into safe containment facilities.
"Time is of the essence to contact legislators and let them know to fix the coal ash bill before going home," said Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations for the environmental group North Carolina League of Conservation Voters.
"The people have spoken and it is clear to all that the current edition of the (coal ash) bill does not do enough to protect our drinking water."