Here’s more information about what happened in the legislative session that just ended:
House Bill 630 – The Duke Energy Bailout Bill
The “Duke Energy Bailout Bill,” passed by the NCGA and signed by Governor McCrory, is the most damaging coal ash legislation to date. It requires the Department of Environmental Quality to change the classification of the coal ash impoundments at seven power plants from intermediate or high risk to low risk, allowing these pits to be capped in place even where the coal ash is sitting deep in the groundwater. This defies common sense. In exchange, Duke Energy must provide drinking water to residents within a ½ mile of the impoundment and makes dam repairs. Though both are a good idea, neither will do anything to stop the pits from continuing to leak toxins into our groundwater for perpetuity. This new law negates the comments of the thousands of people who demanded that their communities not be ranked low priority, and abandons the good classifications made by DEQ in May based on science and health data.
House Bill 593 – Polluter Protection Act 2.0
This bill, which passed the Senate, included a provision that would have required the Department of Environmental Quality to allow a brand new technology for disposal of leachate and wastewater from landfills, and to take the position that it does not constitute a discharge requiring a permit. Aerosolization blasts leachate through a high velocity fan, turning it into droplets that evaporate or blow away, reducing leachate volumes. Critics worry that the aerosol droplets, containing toxics or bacteria, may threaten neighboring or downwind properties. A larger question is why, if the technology can be operated safely – something that has not been demonstrated – it needs a special exemption from state permitting laws.
House Bill 1030 – The 2016-2017 Budget
This year’s budget included an attack on the Falls and Jordan Lake nutrient management strategies. The version that passed the Senate would have sunset all nutrient management strategies in North Carolina. The version that ultimately passed and that was signed by Governor McCrory narrows the Senate’s sweeping attack on water quality rules, but still harms Falls and Jordan Lakes. In the Falls watershed, the budget delays scheduled steps to clean up the reservoir, calls for a study of costs and benefits to be finished by 2021, launches a stakeholder process to renegotiate the rules in December 2016, and requires that state regulators begin readopting a new edition of the rules in 2019. In the meantime, efforts to protect and restore this lake – a water supply and important recreational destination – will fall further behind. In the Jordan watershed, this provision creates a train wreck. It delays scheduled steps to clean up the reservoir, calls for a study of costs and benefits to be finished by 2019, launches a stakeholder process to renegotiate the rules in December 2016, and requires that state regulators begin readopting a new edition of the rules in 2019. But it also seems to say (14.13(f)) that pollution added by development between 2013 and 2020 will never be the responsibility of anyone to clean up. Local governments may not require that developers control that pollution through local ordinances, and local governments that already have strong ordinances must repeal them. With these provisions, 14.13(f) creates a conflict between state law and the federal Clean Water Act and shoves cities and counties into the middle of that breach. The Jordan provisions do not protect water quality in the lake, do not protect downstream users, and place local governments throughout the watershed in an impossible position.
You can also check out: Dismantled: The North Carolina government’s attack on environmental regulations.