By Spencer Schneier, Staff Writer
Published in print Apr. 1, 2015
This past week, lawmakers in the General Assembly considered appointments from Governor Pat McCrory.
While this is usually not much news, the recent appealed ruling that the General Assembly stepped outside its powers to appoint members of commissions established by the North Carolina Coal Ash Management Commission has left many watching the situation closely.
The North Carolina Coal Ash Management Commission is a group of academics, businesspeople and politicians that oversee coal ash problems in North Carolina.
McCrory, a Republican, sued the predominantly Republican General Assembly, claiming that they were infringing on his executive powers.
The commission’s intent is to help facilitate the removal and classification of coal ash waste, doing so through influencing policy as well as making recommendations on how to best remove and clean up coal ash sites.
Coal ash is the waste material left over after the burning of coal. Research has shown that coal ash increases risk for cancer, asthma and a litany of other diseases, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility.
The commission is meant to oversee the closing of several Duke Energy coal ash sites in light of the recent Dan River spill. McCrory owned $10,000 in Duke Energy stock at the time of the spill, selling his shares without initially reporting them over the summer.
Three Wake County judges, Wilton Duke, Yvonne Evans and Howard Manning Jr., made the ruling after being appointed by Chief Justice Mark Martin.
The ruling stated: “It is beyond any reasonable doubt the nature of the powers and duties to be exercised by the three commissions at issue, and their members, are primarily administrative or executive.”
Many, including Greenpeace, have drawn attention to McCrory’s ties to Duke Energy in making claims that he should not be entrusted with these decisions. It is unclear what the next step would be should the General Assembly’s appeal of the ruling get rejected.
At the time of the ruling, McCrory said in a prepared statement, “This historic and unanimous ruling respects and restores the separation of powers.” Former governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin, Democrat and Republican respectively, praised the ruling.
Republican General Assembly leaders Phil Berger and Tim Moore said in a joint press release that the ruling “disregards a century of rulings from our state Supreme Court.” They noted that the legislative body has been allowed to make similar appointments many times in the past.
Moore and Berger, who is a representative for District 26, which includes Guilford County, drew attention to the potentially far-reaching implications of the court’s ruling.
Moore is the Speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives and Berger is the President Pro Tempore of the NC Senate.
McCrory and the Republican-controlled General Assembly have fought over a number of issues since he took office.
General Assembly leaders have said that they will go ahead and begin the confirmation of McCrory’s appointments to government positions.