Senate OKs 'one-size-fits-all' environmental reform

Posted May 1, 2013

— The state Senate Wednesday tentatively approved Senate Bill 612, which would ban any local environmental rules more stringent than state or federal law.

Senate Republican leaders are calling it a victory for "job-creators."  Critics say it will damage the environment and lead to problems for taxpayers. 

Sponsor Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said the measure is in response to town hall meetings Republican leaders held around the state in 2011.

"Anybody that had a business interest at all, they all complained about the rules and regulations we had in the state," he said. 

An amendment by Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, removed an entire section that would have done away with required buffers along waterways in the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse river basins. Environmental experts say those riparian buffers have helped boost formerly poor water quality in both systems. 

But the measure still forbids city or county governments from having any environmental regulations that are stricter than the state's regulations. It also instructs state officials to repeal or rewrite any rule that is stricter than federal regulation. 

Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, said state and federal rules are meant to be the "floor," and local communities have always been allowed to tailor them to suit their communities, like Raleigh's restrictions on fat and grease disposal because of the city's problems with sewer clogs. 

"Camden County – they have their own rules that require developers to deal with 6 inches of stormwater in a 24-hour period. That's because they know that happens in Camden County, because it's flat. The state doesn’t do that," Stein said.

Emerald Isle has similar requirements. Stein said the local government there awards points to property owners who help them get insurance discounts. "We are going to raise insurance rates on Emerald Isle," he warned. 

"This is another example of us getting into what is not our business," he said. "The state should not be dictating to local communities how to protect their people, and yet we have a provision in here that absolutely hamstrings local communities."

Brown said those circumstances could be dealt with through the bill's exceptions for "serious and unforeseen threats to public health, safety, or welfare." 

But Stein pointed out that neither heavy rainfall on the coast nor sewer backups in Raleigh could be considered "unforeseen" problems.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said her local governments are strongly opposed to the bill.

"We have water requirements in our areas that are distinct, and we have dealt with them on a local level," she said. "We’re telling them they can’t do what they know is best for their area." 

The bill also allows property owners to dispose of potentially toxic waste on their own land instead of approved landfills. 

The measure passed 36-12 on second reading. Third reading is scheduled for Thursday after an objection by Stein.


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  • goldenosprey May 2, 2013

    Ah, the party of "returning matters to local control" doubles down on their flip-flop to Stalinist Central Planning.

    "We here on Jones Street (more accurately, AFP, ALEC) know what's right for your environment more than you little people."

    The way the party of small government has turned Big Brother in Raleigh with regards to schools, environmental regulations and reproductive rights, and their tearing up a contract, I don't know why anyone would trust them. They have been nothing but Machiavellian plutocrats.

    Whatelse, if you think laws and fines don't make industries think twice about pollution, you are simply wrong.

    But keep weeping for the poor, disenfranchised corporation, whose rights have been stripped away by a century of socialism, to the point NC was one of the top 5 places to do business before the repubs liberated it. *SNort*

  • floydthebarber May 2, 2013

    Caring about local communities is completely gone from the NC GOP agenda. They only want businesses capable of ripping up, tearing down, and destroying the priceless natural beauty of NC.

    I hope these rural communities trampled on the most begin to stand up and vote Democratic in the next elections. It's the only way to stop this republicon-fueled race to the bottom.

  • miseem May 2, 2013

    Ah yes another dreamer pipes up. Here is how the real world works. People that would dig a hole and pour in toxic waste will do it regardless of the law. what else (who else).

    So you are saying that any law that people disregard is useless and should be repealed? I guess that includes robbery and murder, since some people disobey those laws too. I agree that some people will dispose of toxic substances whether there are laws or not. But at least they can be prosecuted and hopefully be forced to remediate the damage done if there are laws against it. No laws, no remedy in the courts.

  • jgilchr May 2, 2013

    LOL I love that term "job creator". It is a great Orwellian term in order to help maintain the plutocracy. The only winners with this bill will be the polluters. Remember you can eat, breathe, or drink money.

  • hp277 May 2, 2013

    "The bill also allows property owners to dispose of potentially toxic waste on their own land instead of approved landfills."

    Who seriously thinks this is a good idea?

  • SaveEnergyMan May 2, 2013

    Each year under a democratic General Assembly and Governor pushed me further to the right. Now, under a Republican GA and Governor I am being pushed left. Can't we get politicians in the middle to represent the people and not special interests??

  • Krimson May 2, 2013

    WEIN: "The counties and cities ought to have necessary flexibility if they are trying to address issues unique to their location"

    Totally agreed... If even I think you're wearing a tin-foil hat...

  • Krimson May 1, 2013

    WEIN: "Actually you have been experiencing that under the authoritarian style rule of the fascist left."

    Your tin-foil hat is showing...

  • linkz145 May 1, 2013

    The lists of all the bills sponsors of N.C senate bill 612 are public record.... easy google search to find their names. Shame them out of our state and take back N.C. from the Corporatocracy and Plutocracy.

  • thayerguy May 1, 2013

    "Actually you have been experiencing that under the authoritarian style rule of the fascist left. The huge mess already exists and it was created by the fascist left. They destroyed the infrastructure, destroyed the k5-k12 schools and placed the State deeply into debt and leaving us exposed to a huge unfunded liability for the benefit plans for Retired State workers. It takes a long long time to clean up 100 years of mess. Now I do not agree with this bill. If there were specific State regulation issues, fine address them. The counties and cities ought to have necessary flexibility if they are trying to address issues unique to their location."

    Wow everything you have said is completely untrue... there was no "mess" created as you say, everything was ok until these GOP nut jobs came into power in 2010, now we do have a "mess" and once again it will take democrats and moderate republicans to clean it all up and get us back to some level of sanity.