North Carolina passes regulations for toxic coal ash after big spill soiled 70 miles of river

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RALEIGH, North Carolina — 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 say the legislation improved on earlier efforts, but didn't go far enough.

Lawmakers say 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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