Budget Cuts Mean Troubled Waters for NC Environment
This week’s Hotlist focuses on our recently passed budget. After rejecting a motion to re-refer the Appropriations Act of 2018 to the Conference Committee, the Senate’s budget bill was passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 72 to 45 on Thursday. The total proposed budget in the 2018-19 fiscal year for Natural and Economic Resources is $602,768,253. We want to highlight the significant pitfalls in government spending and actions for environmental agencies in this budget.
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been appropriated approximately $95 million, once again demonstrating a lack of urgency towards environmental issues. For example, $2.3 million was allocated towards the Division of Water Resources. The Division of Water Resources is tasked with ensuring safe drinking water, evaluating water quality, and issuing pollution permit controls. The $2.3 million will prove to be severe underfunding as the agency works to resolve the GenX problem. Conversely, the budget gave $5 million to the NC Collaboratory, a think tank at the University of North Carolina, to investigate the same problem without the requirement to take regulatory action, effectively undermining the DEQ.
We’ve also been watching the continued absence of more stringent pollution standards for Jordan Lake. The bill would once again postpone the implementation of the Jordan Lake Rules — measures designed to reduce pollution in Jordan Lake — to as late as the end of 2020. These policies were originally intended to be implemented in 2009. Jordan Lake is a major source of drinking water for the Triangle Area, and delaying the implementation of these policies yet again is at the expense of the health of Triangle residents.
Although Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the bill to prevent it from going into law, Republicans possess veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the State Legislature. We strongly encourage legislators to prevent an override of Governor Cooper’s veto in favor of a new budget plan that prioritizes effective action on GenX and other conservation issues.
We as North Carolinians need to be doing more to promote clean waterways, safe drinking water, and a healthy environment for a more sustainable future.