When they received a short bill (House Bill 765) that had passed the House by a margin of 115-1, they pounced. H.B. 765 was a one-page bill dealing with load-covering rules for trucks hauling things like sand and gravel when it got to the Senate. When the Senate finished with it, H.B. 765 was approximately 60-pages long filled with sweeping environmental rollbacks.
The new, more robust H.B. 765 passed the House and Senate predominantly along party lines with Republicans voting yea and Democrats nay. The bill’s sponsor and apparent wanna-be rapper Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Emerald Isle) said her bill was, “..clean, green and not extreme.” According to North Carolina Health News (10/1/2015), McElraft told her fellow House members, “We haven’t loosened any environmental regulations that would hurt our water, our air, our state in any way,” during the chamber’s debate on the bill.
Well, let’s see: It eliminates all idling restrictions that are currently in place for large diesel trucks and other heavy-duty diesel equipment; it exempts companies that self-report environmental violations from civil penalties; it lengthens 10-year landfill permits to life-of-site and drops the requirement of automatic five-year oversight reviews; it relaxes stormwater pollution requirements at resort developments along the coast; it reduces public access to information regarding air pollution and eliminates the requirement to publish notice of violations or public hearings in newspapers; it exempts isolated wetlands of 1-acre in coastal regions, half-acre in the Piedmont and 1/3-acre in the mountains from any type of regulation; and allows for destruction of intermittent streams with no mitigation requirement.
Remember, this law is 60 pages long and addresses an incredible jumble of issues. Rob Schofield, writing about it back in July for NC Policy Watch said the bill, “… deregulated everything from profanity on public highways to the minimum age for operating all-terrain vehicles.” But, Schofield added, “The bill is particularly pernicious in giving a greener light to polluters. It unprotects some wetlands, weakens stormwater regulations, removes air-quality monitors across the state and eliminates a requirement for recycling computers and televisions.”
One item that quickly hits home for me is allowing destruction of intermittent streams. Do you know that half the streams in North Carolina are intermittent streams? Many of these intermittent streams are headwater streams. They are the wet-weather springs that gurgle up; the tiny rivulets that begin to meander collecting and/or merging with other rivulets to create the streams that converge and grow into the rivers that sustain us. These intermittent, headwater streams help protect us from flooding; they recharge the groundwater; they filter pollution and they create unique habitat for myriad species of plants and animals — what better place to kill a river than where it begins?
This bill ain’t clean and this bill ain’t green — this bill is ugly, dirty and mean.