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Editorials blast override of Cooper’s GenX veto

The two largest newspapers in the area impacted most directly by the GenX chemical disaster had some choice words for state lawmakers this morning in the aftermath of their hyper-partisan veto override [1] yesterday that reinstated the absurdly inadequate House Bill 56.

Here’s the Wilmington Star-News [2]:

“Woohoo! It looks like our long, regional nightmare is over.

A mere four months after the StarNews reported that a toxic chemical was in our drinking water, Sens. Michael Lee and Bill Rabon announced Wednesday that a solution is at hand. Hallelujah, and pass a bottle of tap water!

Lee, Rabon and enough of their colleagues in the General Assembly were able to save the good folks of the Lower Cape Fear from the obviously nefarious intentions of Gov. Roy Cooper, overriding the governor’s veto of N.C. House Bill 56.

As the state faces unprecedented challenges in ensuring our water is at least somewhat safe, Cooper had the gall to request $2.6 million to reinforce the one state agency whose mission is to monitor state waters and keep them safe — the Department of Environmental Quality.

How dare he?

Sen. Lee was having none of it, though. And since it’s his role as a legislator to carry out the day-to-day business of the state — or is that the role of the executive branch? We get confused — Sen. Lee came up with a plan to solve the GenX crisis. And, he got a good deal — $435,000.

In a joint statement issued Wednesday by the office of Senate Leader Phil Berger, Sens. Lee and Rabon said, “It’s a shame that families in the lower Cape Fear region had to wait this long for a solution because of the Governor’s veto.”

….Meanwhile, with UNCW doing the work, that gives the folks at DEQ — remember DEQ? They’re the one state agency whose mission is to monitor waterways and keep them safe — more time to figure out how they are going to address the massive backlog of discharge permits they need to review. But since the Republican-controlled Generally Assembly has cut the DEQ water quality staff from 493 to 426 since 2015, we figure the Honorables must have another Plan to take care of that backlog.”

And this is from the Fayetteville Observer [3]:

“The General Assembly returned to Raleigh this week and quickly overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a measure that sends $435,000 to Wilmington area researchers to study GenX contamination in the Cape Fear River.

And so the seemingly endless game of whack-a-mole continues, with Republican lawmakers reflexively slapping down anything the Democratic governor stands for. We’re waiting for our legislative leaders to protect the lives, health and safety of North Carolinians, and this is the best they can muster.

Cooper, for the record, wanted $2.6 million to add researchers and other water-quality staff to the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Human Services, the state agencies charged with overseeing responses to contamination of our waterways and water supplies. Senate leader Phil Berger blustered that it was only an attempt by Cooper to rebuild a bloated bureaucracy — when in fact, on Berger’s watch, budget writers have gutted the environmental agency and rendered it incapable of adequately protecting state residents from threats exactly like this….

It’s time for lawmakers to get more serious about gearing up state agencies to deal with this threat, and to spend less time playing cheap-shot politics. The people of North Carolina deserve better.”