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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As North Carolina's legislative leaders are congratulating themselves on the imminent passage of a coal ash cleanup bill, the first in the nation, democrats and environmentalists are warning of a coming consumer backlash since the bill would allow Duke to stick the ratepayers with future cleanup costs.

Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins complains that the bill "lets Duke off the hook" for all cleanup costs except for Dan River, the site of a massive coal ash spill in February.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, Republican of Hendersonville and the bill's sponsor, told fellow lawmakers from the floor that in his view Duke would still be financially responsible for any negligence.

Left up in the air is whether that negligence extends to any of the other 13 coal-fired power plants which also have dumps, many of them leaking into groundwater.

Rep. McGrady said that Duke would not incur any cleanup costs until next year so he tried to reassure lawmakers that "We can come back next year" and address costs.

Rep. Kelly Alexander, a democrat from Charlotte, asked McGrady if his constituents would be required to "tote the note."

The North Carolina Utility Commission would have to approve any rate hikes and the Commission has a "public staff" which is supposed to act as consumer advocates taking a hard line on rate hikes.

Get ready to hear more about coal ash costs in the fall elections.

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