RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory wouldn’t say Tuesday how he plans to respond to a proposed new law regulating Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash pits, a measure he has suggested includes an unconstitutional provision.
“I’m going to respond to that in the very near future,” McCrory said, repeating the statement three more times when asked for clarification.
McCrory, who is required to uphold the state constitution, said last month he will likely sign the coal ash bill and possibly file a lawsuit later challenging a provision that lets legislative leaders appoint a majority of the members on a new oversight commission. McCrory said he should lead environmental enforcement as the state’s chief executive.
“I’m going to have to fight them, from a constitutional standpoint,” McCrory said on the syndicated political talk show NC SPIN last month.
The deadline is late next week for McCrory to sign the legislation into law. It would establish timelines and requirements for removal or capping of coal ash at 33 open-air dumps operated by Duke Energy. The legislation would also require Duke to dig up or cap all of its coal ash dumps by 2029.
McCrory could let the legislation take effect without his approval. Or he could veto the measure and let lawmakers decide whether to override him.
McCrory retired from Duke in 2008 after working there 29 years and the electricity company’s executives have remained generous in supporting his political campaigns. The governor has said his administration has never given his former employer special treatment.
Ethics filings show McCrory owned an undisclosed amount of Duke stock, selling his stake after a massive Feb. 2 spill from one of the company’s ash dumps in Eden coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge.
A coalition of North Carolina environmental groups last week sued the country’s largest electric company over pollution leaking from its coal ash pits into rivers and groundwater used as drinking water sources. Coal ash contains numerous chemicals that are toxic to humans and wildlife, including arsenic, lead, chromium and thallium.
McCrory also said he doesn’t anticipate calling the General Assembly into a special legislative session to revamp the state’s Medicaid system. Republican legislative leaders said reforming the system was among their top legislative priorities for 2014, but adjourned for the year without approving a plan. North Carolina currently spends about $13 billion a year on the federal-state insurance program, which serves 1.6 million residents.