For the last two years, our state government has been unable to pass a budget, resulting in static funding for state agencies and programs. But last week, the General Assembly passed and Gov. Roy Cooper signed a state budget into law.
After most of a decade of stripping the state’s pollution control powers and starving funding for critical environmental protection enforcement, the just-approved state budget contains improvements. The compromise budget was far from perfect, but in the end, hard negotiations with Gov. Roy Cooper, backed up by enough legislative votes to sustain his vetoes, produced the improved results.
Noteworthy investments in the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) budget include:
- Five new staff positions for the Emerging Compounds Unit devoted to detecting the sources of PFAS and other complex chemical toxins in the state’s waterways
- Aid for low-income households to replace contaminated drinking water sources
- Improved treatment of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s raw drinking water to remove PFAS and other toxins
- Repairs and upgrades at distressed water and sewer treatment systems across the state.
Other climate resilience and conservation provisions drew positive reactions from coastal, wildlife, and environmental reviewers. “It makes investments in flood resilience, water quality, living shorelines, oysters and the shellfish industry and coastal debris clean up at a scale that we have not seen before. Thank you to all the legislators and Gov. Cooper for working together on this bipartisan compromise spending plan,” commented NC Coastal Federation Executive Director Todd Miller.
Will McDow, the Environmental Defense Fund’s Director of Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds, said the budget was “an important down payment” for a more flood-resilient future, through natural solutions like floodplain protection and wetlands restoration. “Investments in natural infrastructure will deliver increased flood protection for more communities, more farmers and more businesses across the entire state — creating jobs while also improving the quality of our environment.”
As usual, a broad range of proposed special provisions in the various versions of the budget would have had destructive (or in some cases positive) impacts on pollution control and natural resource protection. We are continuing our analysis of the final special provisions content, and will have more details in a future article.