As this recent editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer noted, the Duke coal ash disaster seems to have brought about some real (if rather hypocritical) improvements in the public debate over environmental protection in North Carolina. Sadly, however, state policy under the current state leadership remains terribly flawed and stuck in “regulatory rollback” mode. A classic case in point was highlighted in this morning’s Weekly Conservation Bulletin from the League of Conservation Voters:
“We’ve been waiting for it, and now it’s begun: the formal review process for North Carolina’s most critical legal protections for clean water. These are the rules that the state has used to demand protection of drinking water, water-based recreation, fishing and wildlife resources – and that citizens can use to force action when the state fails to do its job.
Many of these key protections from pollution have been in place for more than a decade, and have worked to hold many abuses in check. Regardless, the N.C. General Assembly as part of last year’s regulatory “reform” legislation mandated that they all be put on a fast track for review. (And if they’re not renewed, on greased rails to the trash heap.)
Among the provisions now under threat are the guidelines for the state’s “antidegradation” policies, which state that pollution is not permitted to remove an “existing use” of waters (e.g., fishing, swimming, drinking supplies, wildlife). Rules under review also include the guidelines for protecting critical wetlands areas from dredging, filling, and destruction by development. These are among the chief rules long targeted by anti-environmental elements among the state’s development community.
The public comment period for these rules and other related provisions opened March 17 and will run through May 21. Interested citizens can review the details and make comments here.
Legal experts working for various citizen conservation groups are working now to review key provisions and coordinate comments. CIB will monitor their efforts and report on this issue further in later editions.”