Legislative Watch: Legislators Enact More Polluter Protections
The NC General Assembly last week continued its anti-environmental ways, enacting two more polluter protection packages over Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes.
The legislature enacted these two polluter-friendly bills over Cooper’s vetoes:
SB 16, the so-called “Business Regulatory Reform Act of 2017.” In general, when anti-environmental legislators label something a “regulatory reform” effort, they’re talking about yet another move to gut safeguards against pollution. Rep. Pricey Harrison called SB 16 “a 16-page grab bag of deregulation provisions” and noted that she “argued against the bill because it loosens water quality rules and imposes limitation on local governments’ power over landfill permits.”
HB 56, “Amend Environmental Laws,” features anti-environmental items including repeal of the popular Outer Banks plastic bag ban which protects sea turtles and other marine life. It also weakens protections for riparian buffers, which help filter out sediment and other pollutants from runoff to state waters. In his public veto message, Gov. Roy Cooper called HB 56 “cynical legislation that fails to address the concerns of families in the Cape Fear region [regarding GenX contamination] and does nothing to protect drinking water statewide going forward.” It’s unfortunate that the legislature’s majority refused to listen to these serious concerns.
Major environmental decisions left hanging:
The legislature again went home without voting on Gov. Cooper’s veto of HB 576, the “garbage juice” bill. That implies that the anti-environmental legislative leadership does not (yet) have the votes to override this veto. They’ve left it alive without a final vote for possible consideration when the legislature reconvenes in January. To read more details on this nasty piece of legislative work, see CIB’s earlier article here.
Also left alive and hanging until January is another anti-environment deregulation bill, HB 162, “Amend Administrative Procedure Laws.” This bill would prohibit state environmental agencies from adopting rules designed to protect the public from pollution hazards any time the cost of complying with those rules would exceed a designated artificial ceiling. In calculating that cost, the agency would not be allowed to take into account the value to public health and natural resource protection of the rule, or the damages which would occur from letting the problem pollution go unchecked.
In short, more bad anti-environmental decisions were made in the state legislature last week. Where the anti-environmental leadership wasn’t certain it had the votes to cram a bad bill through, they held it to lurk again next year. Every time this crowd comes to town, they remind us of the urgent need to replace many of their number in next year’s state legislative elections.