Sierra Club poll finds support for coal ash regulation in N.C.

In the wake of a February incident that caused coal ash from a Duke Energy Corp. plant to flow into the Dan River, the Sierra Club released a poll Tuesday showing the state’s residents want officials to do more to protect the environment the pollutant.

The poll, commissioned by the Sierra Club and completed by Hart Research Associates, showed that a strong majority of North Carolina residents want regulations to prevent coal ash spills. Majorities of North Carolina residents also think the state is not doing enough to protect waterways and public health from pollution.

“North Carolinians are sick of paying the costs for these energy failures and the Dan River disaster is the last straw,” Emma Greenbaum, a North Carolina-based organizer for the Sierra Club’s campaign against coal, told reporters Tuesday. “Clear majorities on both sides of the aisle want clear policy and politicians who will hold Duke accountable and act to prevent another coal ash spill.”

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Eighty-three percent of voters want coal ash, which is a byproduct of burning coal for electricity, to be regulated as a hazardous substance, the Sierra Club said.

Respondents also want better protections for rivers and streams, with 63 percent saying the state is not doing enough to protect them from pollution and contamination. A similar question about protecting public health got 52 percent of respondents to agree that the state is not doing enough.

“The North Carolina voters polled note only agree overwhelmingly that we need coal ash safeguards now, they’re also ready to support political candidates who stand tall for strong air, water and health protections,” said Mary Anne Hitt, national director of the group’s anti-coal campaign.

Following a January coal ash spill in West Virginia, a similar Sierra Club poll also found support for regulations. Together, they show that even in states where the coal industry dominates, residents want environmental protections, the group said.

North Carolina officials and the Environmental Protection Agency are investigating Duke after the February spill for possible violations of the Clean Water Act.

EPA has committed to finalizing a regulation this year regarding proper storage of coal ash to reduce the chances it would spill.