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NC lawmakers reach compromise on coal ash measure

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - State House and Senate leaders say lawmakers have reached a compromise on legislation that would make Duke Energy curb pollution from its 33 coal ash dumps across North Carolina.

A statement from House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Phil Berger said conferees reached an agreement Tuesday that would give the state the strictest regulations in the nation. The statement said the legislation would make the state the first to force the closure of all coal ash ponds.

The statement said the bill sets a 15-year timetable for closing all unlined coal ash ponds. It also eliminates the practice of wet ash disposal.

The last version of the bill publicly released last month would have required Duke to remove the ash at four of its 14 coal-fired plants.


Man, grandson killed in Rocky Mount house fire

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (AP) - Officials in Rocky Mount say a man and a 5-year-old boy have been killed in a house fire.

Spokeswoman Tameka Kenan-Norman said firefighters were dispatched to a single-story home shortly before 10 p.m. Monday night. When they arrived, they found a house and minivan engulfed in flames.

Kenan-Norman said when firefighters got inside the home, they found the body of 63-year-old Frederick Saseqha. Local media reported that Mike Varnell, assistant fire chief with the Rocky Mount Fire Department, identified the second victim found inside the home as Saseqha's grandson, Iziaha Crews.

Varnell said the cause of the fire hasn't been determined and that an investigation is underway.


Activists in 6 states plan to spread NC protests

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Organizers of regular protests at the North Carolina Legislature are being joined by NAACP leaders in a half-dozen other states to launch a week of demonstrations.

The North Carolina NAACP says that Friday will be the first of seven days of demonstrations. In North Carolina, a coalition led by the NAACP has protested at the Capitol nearly every week during the past two legislative sessions.

NAACP leaders from Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee and Wisconsin said on a conference call Tuesday that they will hold demonstrations in their states during some or all of the seven days. Organizers say demonstrations are also being planned in Mississippi.

About 900 people were arrested at protests during the 2013 legislative session in North Carolina, and about 100 were arrested during this year's session.


Public can comment on fracking at Raleigh hearing

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The public is invited to a meeting with North Carolina officials to comment on proposed rules for the oil and gas drilling method known as fracking.

The first of four public meetings is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. at N.C. State University in Raleigh. The state Mining and Energy Commission plans to hold other meetings in Sanford, Reidsville and Cullowhee.

In June, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law clearing the way for permits to be issued for hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - as soon as next spring. The drilling method involves injecting mixtures of water, sand gravel or other chemicals to break apart underground rocks to allow oil and gas to escape.

The law lifts a 2012 moratorium that blocked permits. It's been criticized by environmental groups.


Ex-NC Supreme Court justice to head ethics panel

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A retired associate justice of the N.C. Supreme Court is the choice to head the State Ethics Commission.

Gov. Pat McCrory has announced that George Wainwright Jr. of Carteret County is the new chairman. He replaces John Tyson, who stepped down on Aug. 4.

The commission establishes ethical standards for certain public officials, state employees and appointees to non-advisory state boards and commissions. It also requires public disclosure of economic interests by certain people in the executive, legislative and judicial branches, amends lobbying laws and makes conforming changes.

Wainwright earned a political science degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before working in agribusiness and real estate in Wilson for more than 15 years. He earned a law degree from Wake Forest University in 1984.


Hearing set for Marine accused of desertion

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) - Military officials have scheduled an Article 32 hearing this week for a Marine accused of faking his own kidnapping in Iraq as well as failing to return to his base after visiting relatives in Utah.

A statement from Camp Lejeune on Tuesday said the hearing for Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun is scheduled for Thursday. A Marine Corps spokesman says the results of the hearing will determine what action will be taken.

Hassoun disappeared twice from the military - first in June 2004 in a purported kidnapping by Islamic extremists, and in January 2005 when he failed to return to Camp Lejeune.

Hassoun turned himself in to military authorities in June and is in custody in the brig at Camp Lejeune pending an investigation and decisions on the charges against him.


Former manager sues NC medical examiner's office

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - A former manager is suing the N.C. medical examiner's office, saying he was forced into retirement because he told investigators that a state pathologist had mishandled murder evidence.

The Charlotte Observer reports 57-year-old Kevin Gerity filed a lawsuit claiming that threats to fire him violated the state's Whistleblower Act.

In 2011, Gerity told his bosses that one of the state's leading pathologists failed to turn over to detectives a bullet fragment recovered from a homicide victim. Two years later, he cooperated with an SBI probe into how evidence was handled.

In a December 2013 letter warning Gerity about his pending dismissal, the state described him as an office "bully" who acted inappropriately when he personally collected a bullet fragment left behind after an autopsy.

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