Raleigh, N.C. — The state Senate has passed a bill that would restrict the use of sea-level rise data in planning the futures of coastal communities.
The measure has garnered unfavorable national attention from those who say North Carolina would be outlawing scientific facts.
Backers of the measure say that criticism is unfair. They says scientific studies are conflicted on sea level rise and that media reports have unfairly characterized the bill.
"Local governments are completely left alone in this bill," said Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnson. He said that bill would only affect one state agency.
Rouzer's statement conflicts with analysis of the bill by environmental advocates. It also runs counter to the plain language of the measure, which says, "no rule, ordinance, policy, or planning guideline that defines sea level or a rate of sea-level rise within a coast-area county shall be adopted except as provided by this section."
Only local governments adopt ordinances. Other sections of the bills allow cities to study sea-level rise "for non-regulatory purposes."
A state-appointed science panel's has warned that sea levels could rise 39 inches by 2100. That could threaten 2,000 square miles of coastal land. Under the proposed legislation, state and local governments could only use predictions of a rise of 8 inches, based on historical trends. The difference in predictions could drastically change how state and local governments plan for the future.
The measure passed 35-12. It now goes to the House, where its future is uncertain.