Raleigh, N.C. — After a day's delay, the House approved a bill Thursday that changes a number of environmental regulations.
House leaders tried to vote on the 25-page bill Wednesday afternoon but backed off after Democrats complained the bill was being rushed through, giving no one a chance to review it or hear any concerns from constituents over the rule changes. The bill passed 105-12 and was sent to the Senate, which had included some environmental changes in its own regulatory reform bill.
Among other things, the House bill would prohibit local governments from regulating fertilizer, exempt some old animal waste lagoons from environmental rules and roll back some required air quality reporting.
It also would remove some protections for so-called isolated wetlands, which are tiny plots of land disconnected from other waterways. Environmentalists say the habitats serve a vital function for wildlife and pollution control, especially farther from the coast, where other types of wetlands are more rare.
Under current regulations, developers west of Interstate 95 are allowed to essentially bulldoze up to one-tenth of an acre of these isolated wetlands on each project. To the east, where wetlands are more plentiful, the limit is one-third of an acre.
The House bill raises the threshold to one-third of an acre west of I-95 and one acre to the east. The Senate bill makes the threshold one acre across the state.
House Republicans complained Wednesday about omnibus bills moving through the chamber, but Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, spoke in favor of the environmental bill Thursday, saying it contained no "stinker of a bill" provisions that had previously failed to advance on their own merits.
"Normally, bills this long that have this many subdivisions, I thoroughly detest," Collins said. "This particular bill does seem to me not to be cobbled together of a bunch of disparate parts that really don't belong in the same ballpark."