Wilmington will be one of the sites hosting state Department of Environmental Quality meetings seeking public feedback on coal ash disposal.
DEQ has a meeting scheduled for Feb. 22 at Cape Fear Community College. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the U-170 building, according to a news release.
Rules are being drafted by DEQ to protect public health and the environment for when coal ash waste is disposed of and recycled. Coal ash is a waste product generated when coal is converted into electricity.
Erin Carey, with the Wilmington Sierra Club, said the new rules are a step in the right direction, but that the DEQ could be rushing the process along.
"The process seems a little rushed at this point," said Carey. "We would like to see a little more stakeholder input and a little more time for communities to review. Four days is not enough time to educate a community to come out and make an educated comment on how they feel about a rule."
According to the release, existing state rules require power plant operators to build coal ash landfills with protective lining to prevent impacts to groundwater as well as systems for collecting wastewater and regular environmental monitoring.
The new rules would add detailed criteria for how the landfills are to be constructed, restrict what sites are suitable for coal ash landfills and widen the buffers between the landfill and adjoining properties, streams and rivers.
Carey believes the new rules are a response to Duke Energy's coal ash spill. She hopes this is a wake up call that cleaner forms of energy need to be found.
"If we are going to continue to burn coal for power, which we hope we don't for much longer, then we need a place to store safely this toxic substance that is a by product of that process," she said. "North Carolinians deserve to be protected by their government and by the industries that are in our state."
At the February meetings, DEQ will give a presentation about the rules and state officials will then open the floor to anyone wishing to provide feedback on the rules. Those comments will be recorded. Anyone who wants to speak should register between 5:30-6 p.m. the day of the meeting.
Carey added that people should be encouraged to comment on the rule because it affects everyone's bottom line.
"Duke is a multi-billion dollar company, and they're asking you to take on the cost of their clean up and their mistakes," she said. "That is fundamentally wrong. You many not care about the environment and that might not be on your mind day to day, but certainly your budget is."
People can also comment in writing until March 22. Public comments can be sent by email to email@example.com. Include CCR Rules in the subject line.
DEQ plans to present a final draft to the NC Environmental Management Commission in May followed by a 60-day formal public comment period in the summer.
A pdf version of the rules can be found below.
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