Among the scary legislation developing in the North Carolina assembly, there are two bills — one a monster of bad environmental reform and the other back from the dead in order to snuff out the state’s renewable energy — which stand out from the creepy pack. These bills are not exactly the slow and shambling kind of creatures from old 50s horror movies, though, and are moving quickly through the state legislature.
The first, the newly-drafted Senate Bill 612, or Regulatory Reform Act, could have many wide-sweeping and detrimental consequences for environmental regulations in North Carolina. The legislation, which passed through the state Senate last Thursday, would limit how local governments can produce and control regulations to protect the environment. Among other measures to weaken environmental protections, the bill would:
- Loosen requirements for cleaning up groundwater pollution
- Loosen requirements for burying demolition debris
- Force state environmental rules to be equal to or less strong than federal standards
- Loosen regulations in place to help wetlands
- Create a fast-track system for erosion-control permits
The first point, fewer requirements for cleaning up pollution in groundwater, is hugely concerning. This provision would increase compliance boundaries to a facility’s property line, allowing coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities to pollute groundwater farther away from their sites.
Second on the list, demolition debris can contain anything from lead paint to asbestos to PCBs, all of which are more likely to pollute water sources if not adequately buried. The provision does not clarify how coal ash waste applies to “demolition debris” and thus the bill could help power plants avoid certain aspects of the permitting process for coal ash ponds.
Another worrisome aspect of the bill is that it would require state environmental agencies and commissions to identify and repeal any existing rules that are stricter than similar federal rules and likewise would not allow local governments to produce rules stronger than state or federal rules.Read more