NC legislators approve regulating toxic coal ash

An excavator works beside a mound of ash at the pond at Santee Cooper's Jefferies power generating station just outside Moncks Corner, S.C., on Feb. 26, 2014. The recycled coal ash is trucked from the site and then used in the manufacture of concrete. Santee Cooper is South Carolina's state-owned electric and water utility. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
An excavator works beside a mound of ash at the pond at Santee Cooper's Jefferies power generating station just outside Moncks Corner, S.C., on Feb. 26, 2014. The recycled coal ash is trucked from the site and then used in the manufacture of concrete. Santee Cooper is South Carolina's state-owned electric and water utility. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers have approved legislation they say makes the state the nation’s first to address decades of toxic water pollution from residue left behind by coal-burning electricity plants.

The General Assembly on Wednesday approved legislation addressing the problem unmasked six months ago when a coal ash spill from a Duke Energy plant coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge. The measure goes to Gov. Pat McCrory before becoming law.

Environmentalists said the legislation improved on earlier efforts, but didn’t go far enough.

Lawmakers said the measure would reverse a Superior Court judge’s ruling that Duke must take “immediate action” to eliminate groundwater contamination that crosses onto a neighboring property. Environmental attorney Frank Holleman says that will allow Duke to study the problem indefinitely before starting cleanup.

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