A bill that would require Dominion Energy to excavate four coal ash ponds throughout Virginia passed its first Senate committee on Thursday.
Obama-era rules currently require the closure of all coal ash ponds in the U.S. within the next 15 years. The Senate bill backed by Governor Ralph Northam would prohibit Dominion from burying the coal ash in place, and would require them to recycle it or transport it to a landfill. A number of environmental groups have claimed that these ash ponds are leaking into groundwater and contaminating wells and rivers.
Senator Scott Surovell of Fairfax is sponsoring the bill. He told the Senate Agriculture Committee Thursday that doing nothing about the coal ash ponds is no longer an option.
“We’re not going to solve this problem by leaving it where it is in these leaky ponds,” he said. “I think it’s undisputed that every single one of the four sites are leaking heavy metals into the groundwater. They aren’t in violation, but they are leaking.”
Surovell also told the committee that Dominion rate payers could expect to spend up to $2 per month more if they are asked to shoulder the cost of the ash disposal.
The bill passed by a 9-5 vote, with some senators expressing concerns about the burden that increased traffic coming in and out of these sites could put on roads and other infrastructure.
The bill will now head to the Senate Finance Committee, which will be tasked with working out who will pay for the cost of coal ash removal.