On the House floor in the final minutes of the August session, Democratic Rep. Darren Jackson had a crystal-ball moment. He called out his Republican colleagues for their last-minute, controversial appropriation to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority so it could” urgently” address the GenX drinking water crisis — an urgency lost on the utility for more than a year.
“If you want this done quickly, wouldn’t you ask the governor if he could support it? Did you ask?” Jackson said, noting that if Gov. Cooper vetoed House Bill 56, an override vote was six weeks away — hardly the definition of urgent. “If not, it’s about covering your behind. You can go home and say you did something when you really didn’t.”
Today Gov. Cooper vetoed did just that, calling HB 56 “cynical legislation that fails to address the concerns of families in the Cape Fear region and does nothing to protect drinking water statewide going forward.
“It gives the impression of action while allowing the long-term problem to fester,” the governor went on. “And it unnecessarily rolls back other environmental protections for landfills, river basins, and our beaches.”
Residents in the Cape Fear region had told lawmakers on the Environmental Review Commission in late August that they had no faith in the utility and not to fund it, but rather NC DEQ. At that same meeting, and other public forums, NC DEQ Secretary Michael Regan had emphasized that his agency needed money — $2 million — to deal not only with the drinking water issues in the Cape Fear basin, but statewide.
The Haw, Catawba, Neuse, French Broad are among just a few of the waterways plagued by pollution and in some cases, newly discovered contaminants.It gives the impression of action while allowing the long-term problem to fester Click To Tweet
“The urgent need to protect our state’s drinking water is not an issue that will soon go away,” Cooper wrote in his veto message. “There are no short cuts, and the presence of GenX in groundwater in Fayetteville makes clear the solution cannot be limited to Wilmington.”
Cooper’s reference to Fayetteville is in response to DEQ’s recent findings that groundwater wells near the Chemours plant near the Bladen/Cumberland County line are contaminated with high levels of perfluorinated compounds like GenX and C8. Yesterday, the Fayetteville Observer reported that residential drinking wells near the plant contained levels of GenX higher than the health goal of 70 parts per trillion.
House Bill 56 was a a tortured piece of legislation even before a last-minute political maneuver. It included a repeal of a plastic ban along the Outer Banks, a potential weakening of riparian buffer protections, and the funneling of $435,000 to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and UNC Wilmington, ostensibly to address the GenX drinking water crisis.