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Coal Ash Commission hires first staff members

Raleigh – The Coal Ash Management Commission has hired its first two staff members to begin work supporting the independent commission and its duties.

Natalie Birdwell is the new executive director of the Coal Ash Management Commission (CAMC). As such, she will provide senior–level management of staff and is responsible for business operations of the commission. Birdwell has extensive experience in the energy industry and in government operations.  Most recently she served as special assistant for Natural Resources at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, where she oversaw operations of the state zoo, aquariums, marine fisheries, parks and recreation and the Museum of Natural Sciences.

Attorney Lisa Schneider, partner with Schneider Boerema, PLLC, is the commission’s legal counsel and will serve under an annual contract. Schneider practices corporate law and previously served in the Environmental Division of the N.C. Attorney General’s office and as General Counsel to the State Treasurer.  Additional staff will be hired or contracted with over the coming weeks, including individuals with backgrounds in engineering, community and public relations, and administration.

According to Commission Chairman Michael Jacobs, “Our objective is to hire the most talented people possible with relevant backgrounds, and both Natalie and Lisa are great examples of that goal.”

The law creating the commission, which went into effect in late September, charges the commission to oversee the management of coal ash residuals in the state following a major coal ash spill into the Dan River in February. The nine-member commission is tasked with reviewing and approving coal combustion residuals surface impoundment classifications and closure plans, and making recommendations on rules related to managing coal ash.  Duke Energy maintains 32 coal ash impoundments at 14 sites across the state which store residual material left from burning coal to generate electricity.

Funding for the Coal Ash Management Commission and additional positions in the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources tasked with monitoring coal ash, is paid for by a levy on public utilities which operate coal combustion residuals surface impoundments.

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