The Senate agriculture and environment committee introduced a blizzard of last-minute, controversial amendments to a bill this morning — including one that state regulators had not even reviewed.
The NC Department of Environmental Quality “still has issues with” the Senate version of House Bill 56, said Andy Miller, DEQ’s legislative director.
One Senate amendment would strike language requiring facilities to notify the public whenever any amount of untreated wastewater is spilled into lakes, rivers and streams. Current law requires notice when the amount is 1,000 gallons. The amendment essentially maintains existing law.
“Why are there changes to revert it back?” asked Democratic Sen. Angela Bryant, one of the few committee members who publicly quizzes the bill sponsors for explanations.
“Well, this goes on daily at municipal wastewater plants, at Duke Energy,” replied Sen. Andy Wells. “We know it’s going on.”
(Real Facts NC has video footage of this discussion.)
Arguably, it is not widely known how much untreated wastewater is discharged into surface waters and who is responsible for it.
Miller of DEQ could not comment to lawmakers about the amendment because, he said, “We’ve not been able to review it.”
Another amendment would reduce the number of seats on the Marine Fisheries Commission from nine to seven. The governor would still have the power to appoint the members, but like Republicans’ attempts to shrink the Court of Appeals and other governmental bodies they disagree with, this decrease is not as benign as it seems.
“In the last few years, most people believe the Marine Fisheries Commission has gotten out of control,” said Sen. Bill Cook, not defining “most people.” “They’re not basing decisions on science, but politics. Maybe this will encourage the commission to make better decisions.”
If that’s truly the case, then changing the statute to add scientists to the commission could solve the problem. Currently, there is only one: Mike Wicker, a biologist with the US Fish & Wildlife Service. His term expires on June 30, although Gov. Cooper could reappoint him.