SANFORD — The Lee and Chatham county representatives to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Legislative Goals Conference this week spearheaded an effort to make returning power to local governments when it comes to coal ash storage a priority for the N.C. General Assembly’s 2015 session.
“The legislative goals process is pretty involved,” said Amy Dalrymple, chairwoman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners. “The problem we had with the coal ash issue was that it happened after the deadline for legislative goals to be submitted to [NCACC] committees.”
Dalrymple said she, Lee County Commissioner Ricky Frazier and representatives from Chatham County, Jim Crawford and Mike Cross, asked that a goal regarding hydraulic fracturing be amended to include coal ash during the conference, which took place Thursday and Friday.
“If you really look at the way the legislature did both issues, fracking and coal ash, they are very similar,” Dalrymple said. “They kind of ran around the counties and took all local controls away from county governments.”
The amendment had “overwhelming support,” with delegates from 88 of North Carolina’s 100 counties voting in favor of it, Dalymple said.
The approved goal states that NCACC employees will “seek legislation to establish a mechanism for local governments to recover costs associated with providing services or reversing negative effects on the community related to natural gas and oil exploration industry and coal ash storage.”
The next step is for NCACC employees to begin lobbying state legislators to let them know county commissioners across North Carolina are unhappy with legislation regarding fracking and coal ash storage.
“I think it really speaks to the way [the coal ash legislation] was done,” Dalrymple said. “It just was not good partnership from the business side with Duke [Energy]. And it was not good governing from the state level to take all the local controls away.”
Sanford Mayor Chet Mann echoed Dalrymple’s sentiment. Stripping local governments of their power to regulate industry, he said, does a disservice to the residents of Lee and Chatham counties.
“I applaud and support their efforts,” Mann said. “It’s vitally important that we have some local control to preserve our quality of life and see that our needs are taken care of. We all feel like having some power over local ordinances and zoning to take care of our own community is really important. I hope what they achieve will give us an extra measure of protection.”
While Dalrymple was pleased with the goal, it’s not exactly what she wanted.
“I would have liked to have said, ‘Let’s turn back the clock and start over and just rescind [the Coal Ash Management Act] and start from the beginning again,'” she said. “But most of us are pretty realistic and understand that that just doesn’t happen. Once a piece of legislation has passed, they generally don’t go backwards and start over. We tried to do the best that we could. Hopefully this will help us move forward.”
This article was written by Zach Potter from The Sanford Herald, N.C. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.