Gov. McAuliffe talks coal ash at bill signing

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It’s been one of the most controversial environmental issues in Virginia — what do with coal ash ponds.

On Thursday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed legislation he says will help carve out a comprehensive plan.

“There’s over five billion gallons of coal ash storage up and down the James River,” said James River Association CEO Bill Street. “How we handle that coal ash for future generations is really going to be decided today.”

Previous plans to cap coal ash in place had environmentalists concerned about the potential for contamination.

McAuliffe said SB 1398 will protect Virginia’s waters.

“This coal ash will be disposed of in the most environmentally-safe way and it will not impact our waterways,” he said.

It delays existing plans to close coal ash ponds until more information can be gathered. The bipartisan legislation requires environmental assessments, identifying and correcting existing pollution and evaluating options to recycle the coal ash.

Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) patroned the bill with Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian).

“I’m really excited about the recycling possibilities of coal ash,” said Surovell. “VDOT told me they’re making the strongest concrete they’ve had in years by using coal ash in Virginia’s roads and bridges.”

McAuliffe said from oysters to craft beer to tourism, water quality is critical.

“We could not have any of that without clean water. Plain and simple,” he said.

The environmental assessments will be due December 1.

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