Gov. Pat McCrory’s decision to sign a massive regulatory reform bill on Friday is drawing sharp criticism from environmentalists, who say House Bill 74 loosens safeguards on coal ash ponds, landfills and billboards.
In signing the Regulatory Reform Act, Governor McCrory also rolled out two executive orders that he says will “help protect the beauty and environmental health of our state.”
Executive Order 22 ensures that law enforcement can continue to cite leaking garbage trucks. And Executive Order 23 is intended to protect North Carolina from excessive clear cutting from outdoor advertising companies.
The NC Conservation Network notes in their statement below those two orders are only a small improvement, and the legislation contains numerous worrisome provisions:
‘In what has become a recurring theme, Gov. Pat McCrory today signed another controversial bill into law – this one promising to do more damage to the environment and quality of life that make North Carolina great.
The so-called Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 (H74) is another example of how the NC legislature and Gov. McCrory have taken North Carolina in the wrong direction. H74 includes provisions that will reduce basic health and environmental safeguards on toxic coal ash ponds, unsafe landfills and unsightly billboards. Governor McCrory himself had raised concerns about some parts of the bill.
NC Conservation Executive Director Brian Buzby said: “Unless you like unsafe landfills in your neighborhood or obnoxious digital billboards in your community, this grab-bag of special interest goodies is just one more step backward for our state. It’s another sign that the lawmakers we sent to Raleigh care more about appeasing out-of-state business interests than about protecting the environment and quality of life that makes North Carolina special.”
The most harmful provisions in the so-called Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 were flagged in an August 7 letter from NC Conservation Network available at (insert URL). Now the law of the land, H74 will:
* Allow industrial companies, including producers of toxic coal ash, to continue to pollute groundwater up until the point when their contamination finally crosses into a neighbor’s property. (§46)
* Reduce the ability of low income or minority communities to block or require changes to landfills in their neighborhoods. (§59(a))
* Allow billboard companies to replace any billboard with an obnoxious digital billboard, while blocking local governments from limiting this replacement. (§8)
* Forbid local governments from adopting ordinances that require employers to help fix traffic congestion impacts caused by their employees. This takes away an efficient tool for local governments to keep the local street network functioning for all businesses. (§10)
* Abolish the Mountain Resource Commission, a volunteer advisory board that works to safeguard western NC’s natural resources. (§43)
* Set deadlines – with no extra resources to meet them – by which state regulators must re-adopt most existing environmental protections or those protections automatically expire. Water quality protections for North Carolina’s rivers, lakes, and beaches face the first set of deadlines. (§3(b),(d)
* Block cities and counties from improving environmental and public health protections until October 2014 except by the unanimous vote of local elected leaders. This will derail a host of safeguards, including local ordinances address water pollution, sediment, protection of property rights from impacts by neighbors, and others. (§10.2)
* Void any provision in a private contract between a business and a corporate farm that requires the farm to work with (or not work with) union labor. In recent years, some companies have required that their growers negotiate with the farmworkers who pick their crops; this provision forbids those companies from requiring this. Beyond inserting big government into a private contract, this provision undermines the ability of a company to ensure that its supply chain meets the company’s ethical standards (§15).
While Governor McCrory’s Executive Order on leaking garbage trucks (EO 22) is a small improvement, the significant number of damaging provisions that remain in the new law represent a terrible move in the wrong direction for North Carolina.’