Stokes Co. leaders concerned over coal ash law

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STOKES COUNTY, N.C. -- State environmentalists and community leaders in Stokes County are worried a state law to manage coal ash doesn't sufficiently address all power plant locations in North Carolina.

Governor McCrory said this week he would not sign the bill but also did not plan to veto it.

The N.C. Conservation Network released a statement saying, "Under the coal ash bill, coal ash from just four facilities will be fully excavated and moved to lined storage away from waterways. At 10 other sites, however, a commission of political appointees will decide which additional communities, if any, will get a full cleanup and on what timeframe."

Annie Brown, who has lived near the Belews Creek steam station most of her life, is worried about coal ash stored nearby.

"I'm just concerned and my eyes were open to a lot of the things I didn't know about as far as the contaminants and how human life can be affected by coal ash," Brown explained. "It's time to think about future generations."

Amy Adams, the campaign coordinator for Appalachian Voices based in Boone, has concerns about the law, too.

While the measure mandates digging up and removing coal ash from four sites in the state, she says it doesn't immediately address Duke Energy's remaining coal-fired plants. "It leaves 10 of those communities without an answer as to what exactly will happen to the coal ash in their community. Will it be cleaned up? Will it be left in place? Will it be removed to a landfill?" Adams questioned.

A coal ash commission of appointed officials would answer those questions in the coming months. They could decide ash at those ten locations should be moved to lined landfills, or they may agree the ash can safely be capped in place.

Duke Energy spokesperson Catherine Butler told FOX8, "We remain committed to safely closing ash basins across the state, including the basin at Belews Creek. The Belews Creek plant already manages fly ash in a state-of-the-art landfill. We're continuing our work and planning for the best way to meet the aggressive timelines outlined in the legislation."

The law does require Duke Energy to dig up or cap all of its coal ash ponds by 2029.

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