My wife and I raised three sons who still live in the Carolinas, so, naturally, how to dispose of 100 million tons of coal ash got our attention.
I also guess, by now, we all know the biggest coal ash deposit in the state is right here in Catawba County. While that pond is downstream from our local water intakes, a spill – like the spill on the Dan River – could cause harm along the Catawba-Wateree basin from Charlotte to Charleston.
When it comes to cleaning up coal ash, one problem is folks can’t agree on what to do. One group says – with absolute conviction – we ought to drain every pond, haul away the ash, burn it and then close the ponds.
Since that may cost $10 billion, other folks argue it’s better to close the major threats immediately, then determine if there’s an effective but less costly way to clean up the others.
There’s another question hardly anyone’s asked: Coal ash ponds have been regulated by state experts for decades. So how did we land in this mess? What went wrong?
There’s no way to put this but bluntly: But when it comes to cleaning up the coal ash ponds having the same old team of regulators in the room isn’t enough – we need some new faces.
And that’s starting to happen. The legislature has put new people – who have no historical ownership of the problem that may blind them to a better solution – to work. It also helps the new team includes a number of people who have the engineering backgrounds, as well as a former national President of the Sierra Club with a 30 year history of environmental leadership.
Of course, we can’t expect to correct 80 years of mistakes in six months.
When our sons took their first steps across the room, we didn’t critique the wobble in their stride or measure the length of their steps and point out how they could cover more ground with a few tweaks. The bill dealing with coal ash is like that – it’s the first few steps.