This morning’s Fayetteville Observer has a fine editorial that sums up the sad state of environmental protection efforts in North Carolina. Its accurate conclusion: Years of both benign and toxic neglect have taken a terrible toll. This trend has been especially destructive in recent years under conservative rule during which the very idea of environmental regulation has become a dirty word. Here’s the Observer in “Will state get serious about pollution oversight?”:
“State regulators and some environmental groups have settled their dispute over the way complaints about factory-scale livestock operations are handled. That’s a good thing for all of us. And the case also helps us understand how extensive GenX pollution in the Cape Fear River and around the Chemours plant came to be.
The bottom line was simple: The state wasn’t enforcing the law. It wasn’t even trying. In fact, lawmakers have aggressively cut funding and staffing for environmental regulators, over and over.”
After explaining a recent announcement from the state Department of Environmental Quality signifying that things are changing dramatically under Gov. Cooper’s administration, the editorial concludes this way:
“But that’s not what we’ve seen in North Carolina for a long, long time. Even before Republicans came to dominate state government, this state was willing to tolerate environmental problems if the tradeoff was jobs — and generous donations from industry to state politicians. Under the current leadership, it’s gotten worse.
It’s remarkable that for years, some industry in the Greensboro area has been dumping the likely carcinogen 1,4-dioxane into the Haw River, and it’s been flowing down the Cape Fear River, getting into our drinking water. After all this time, inspectors haven’t traced the pollution to its source. And instead of taking the needed action to deal with frequent, severe algae blooms in Jordan Lake, lawmakers have financed several boondoggle projects on the lake instead of acting to cut the upstream pollution that’s feeding the algae. And now we’re dealing with GenX and probably many other chemicals emanating from the chemical plant complex on the Bladen-Cumberland county line — only because some independent scientists found it and sounded the alarm. It appears that toxic substances from Chemours-DuPont Fayetteville Works were emitted into the water and air from the plant for years, and likely decades, without any regulators raising questions about the health effects of those chemicals.
For years, many of our lawmakers believed that no matter how toxic the substances dumped into our rivers and our air, they would be quickly diluted and have no effect on human health. They were dead wrong, and it’s good to see at least some of them rethinking that dangerous philosophy.
Factory farming can be done safely and in harmony with nature. It can even become a valuable energy resource. Safe chemical manufacturing is also possible, but it requires rigorous safety measures and constant oversight. We hope the recent regulatory changes we’re seeing in the state Department of Environmental Quality are an acknowledgment that we’re entering a new, better-balanced regulatory era.”