Report: NC Lawmakers Slashed Environmental Protection

North Carolina legislators slashed funding of environmental protection work by more than one-third over the past decade, one of the largest cuts of any state in the country. This included the elimination of over 400 staff positions responsible for controlling pollution.

This sweeping retreat from enforcing controls on air and water pollution took place in the decade between 2008 and 2018, at a time when threats to human health and the environment were dramatically on the rise. Instead of meeting that challenge, North Carolina’s state legislators cut back environmental enforcement capacity by more than all but three other states.

Environmental attorney and blogger Robin Smith noted that a nationwide study found that North Carolina’s precipitous retreat “occurred against a backdrop of ongoing problems associated with large animal operations; the need to address pollution at coal ash disposal sites; repeated flood events; and vulnerability to sea level rise. The report does not mention another resource intensive environmental issue that arose during this time period — water pollution associated with emerging contaminants such a GenX and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).”

The original report, “The Thin Green Line,” studied cutbacks at state agencies responsible for environmental protection. The report ”found that a majority of states have cut their pollution control spending and staffing over the last decade — often more drastically than EPA — even at times when overall state budgets have grown and environmental challenges have increased. This downsizing of environmental protection agencies at both the federal and state levels has happened during an unprecedented boom in the U.S. oil and gas industry. State regulators are frequently overwhelmed with permit applications for new projects while serious violations of law continue to accumulate at existing facilities with no enforcement response.” 

The full report (PDF) includes an extended discussion of North Carolina as a case example.“The Thin Green Line” serves as a dramatic reminder of how much environmental ground has been lost in North Carolina over a decade of legislative mismanagement — and how urgent it is now to reverse that disastrous course with new legislative leadership in 2020. Help NCLCV accomplish that goal!

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