When most people think of lax pollution controls, they usually think of dirtier and more toxic air and water. As a new release from the good people at the North Carolina chapter of Sierra Club reminds us however, sometimes lax regulation can lead to other, less obvious results — like dramatically increased flooding.  Here is a statement that the group released earlier today:

Bill on Governor’s Desk Could Worsen Flooding in Eastern North Carolina
Vital streams would lose protections under H 765

RALEIGH – As Eastern North Carolina recovers from record breaking rainfall, a bill awaiting Gov. McCrory’s signature could make future flooding in the state worse if it becomes law. H 765, Regulatory Reform of 2015, contains many provisions criticized by environmental groups. Among them, §4.31 would prohibit the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from requiring mitigation for impacts to seasonal streams from development. The bill was supported by the Chamber of Commerce and developers.

Seasonal or intermittent streams are well-defined channels where water flows for only part of the year, typically during the winter and spring. Nearly half (46%) of North Carolina stream miles – over 50K miles out of 112K total stream miles – are intermittent and small perennial streams. These streams are often streams drain between 55% and 85% of the land area in North Carolina and are often headwaters to our drinking water sources.

“Intermittent streams help manage flooding by providing a safe channel for the water to flow.” said Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper. “Without these streams, in periods of unusual rainfall, there’s nowhere for floodwater to go except through developed areas. The flooding we saw this week in the eastern part of our state would have been much worse if we didn’t have seasonal streams to carry floodwaters.”

H 765 was passed on the last night of the legislative session. The provision affecting seasonal streams was never debated in committee, nor did legislators hear from experts about the potential impact. The measures is on the Governor’s desk.
“The Governor should act decisively to protect North Carolinians from future flooding events by vetoing H 765,’” stated Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, communications director of the North Carolina Sierra Club.

On September 30, 2015, fifteen environmental groups called on Gov. McCrory to veto H 765. The letter requesting the veto can be found here:

Image: Natural Resources Defense Council

Image: Natural Resources Defense Council

The biggest scandal right now in the world of industry involves the giant German manufacturer Volkswagen, which has now admitted to installing software in its vehicles to provide false emission tests results. As the New York Times reports this morning, one of the factors that led to this scandal was the regulatory structure that allows car manufacturers to do their own emission tests or to select the companies with which they will contract to perform them.

In other words, with self-policing for environmental pollution you inevitably get…wait for it…cheating. The drive for profits often makes the temptation to cook the books is too great.

This brings us to one of the centerpieces of the so-called “regulatory reform” legislation (aka the “Polluter Protection Act”) that’s currently awaiting final action in the General Assembly as lawmakers move toward adjournment next week. As was explained earlier this week by the good people at the N.C. League of Conservation Voters, the proposed law would enact a regulatory framework that is even weaker than the one that gave rise to the VW scandal. This is from the League’s Weekly Conservation Bulletin:

“The big environmental fight surely looming over the remainder of this legislative year deals with HB 765, now better known as the Polluter Protection Act.

Why is that? In brief, imagine this: A corporate polluter – one of those occasional bad actors whose irresponsible behavior undercuts the efforts of the more ethical majority of businesses – has been carelessly dumping unpermitted pollution into your local river. It realizes that it is finally about to be caught, either by concerned citizens or one of the overworked remaining state environmental enforcement staff. It quickly runs a ‘self-audit’ and confesses to its regrettable “mistake” of dumping excess pollution into the river feeding the local water supply. Hey, presto! Said corporate polluter gets immunity and is let off the hook from fines and penalties on the basis of its promise to do better from now on.

This isn’t satire; that kind of provision is actually contained in the Polluter Protection Act.

In other words, under the proposed new model for North Carolina, a polluter could be as guilty as Volkswagen and then, upon being discovered, simply self-report its behavior as a “mistake” and avoid any liability.

Of course, for every polluter who finally realizes they’re about to get caught and self-reports, there will undoubtedly be many more who will go their merry way, degrading our environment without any consequences at all. Others, like VW, will get away with murder for many years and never even face the kind of consequences that awaits the giant car maker.

The bottom line: The self-policing provision of the “regulatory reform” bill makes a mockery of our environmental protection laws and citizens will be the ones who will pay the price.



The so-called “regulatory reform” bill  (aka the “Polluter Protection Act”) that’s been wending its way through the General Assembly this year contains a laundry list of provisions that would weaken important environmental protection laws and regulations. Laura Wenzel of the Medical Advocates for Healthy Air program at Clean Air Carolina details some of the most troubling in this “must read” op-ed:

H765 and Air Quality: Jones Street has it in for the Joneses

By Laura Wenzel, MSW

Air pollution impacts our lives in surprising ways, and some of the worst impacts don’t happen all at once, but as a gradual accumulation of stresses. Unfortunately, a bill currently being negotiated in the NC General Assembly boosts the harms of air pollution in just this way: a series of weakening changes that add up to bigger risks to our kids, our families, and ourselves.

H765, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2015, includes provisions that threaten air, water, and land. But to understand just the air quality provisions, let’s consider what H765 does to the hypothetical Jones family.

The Jones family includes Tonya, a pregnant woman; her six-year-old son Joseph; and her mother, Pauline. Their neighborhood is adjacent to a warehouse district, where heavy trucks travel daily. Currently, unless a truck’s engine is required for an operation like refrigeration, the truck is not allowed to idle for more than five minutes. This not only saves wear on the truck’s engine, it prevents diesel pollution from concentrating in the area. However, H765 repeals the anti-idling rule, allowing truckers to idle their vehicles for an unlimited amount of time.

This is bad news for the fetus that Tonya Jones is carrying. Read More


[The title of this post has been updated to assuage the concerns of those who interpreted it as somehow heralding criticism of the the City of Raleigh.]

In case you missed it Sunday, the editorial page of the Greensboro News & Record did a great, if sobering, job of summing up the ongoing war on North Carolina’s natural environment that’s being waged by the state’s conservative political leadership.The editorial — “A toxic wish list,” begins this way:

“Don’t look now, but planet Earth is under attack. From Raleigh.

And resistance is futile. Or so it seems.”

After alluding to a 2013 bill by Greensboro’s Senator Trudy Wade that, amazingly, proposed to allow garbage trucks to spill more noxious liquid on the highways and byways of the state, the editorial puts it this way:

“But Wade’s bill was only the first drip in a noxious flood of legislation that followed from a GOP-controlled legislature that seems hell-bent on disintegrating protections against tainted water and filthy air. The list, contained in an omnibus bill, is as long as it is shortsighted.

One provision, pushed by Wade, would no longer require electronics companies to help defray the expense of recycling and disposing of discarded computers, televisions and other products that can create dangerous toxins in landfills.

Wade’s reasoning: The expense was too burdensome for those companies.

So, where, then would the additional costs logically shift? To the city and county governments that have established e-recycling drop-off programs. And ultimately to local taxpayers.

What’s the harm? Wade told the News & Record’s Taft Wireback. ‘It’s still banned from landfills.’ As if an electronics fairy comes and magically takes old e-junk away in the dead of night and leaves quarters.

Another pending change would allow construction nearer to streams.

Another would allow companies that turn themselves in for pollution not to be assessed penalties if they cooperate in clean-up efforts.

Another would force citizen groups that file lawsuits against state agencies on environmental issues to reimburse the state for attorney’s fees if the state wins in court. (In effect, it dares citizens to sue.)

Still another Read More


DENRpicEver since Gov. Pat McCrory took office, the folks he’s put in charge of environmental protection have been doing pretty much whatever the state’s corporate polluters have demanded.  McCrory’s original DENR Secreatry John Skvarla did just about everything he could to turn the one-time watchdog into an industry lapdog.

Now, however, even McCrory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources thinks the state Senate has gone too far with its latest “regulatory reform”  proposal. The Department has sent an illustrated 4,100 word letter to the Senate in which it explains why it cannot support the latest version of House Bill 765.

Laura Leslie of has some of the details in the letter in this story.

Of course, given the interest the Senate has displayed in the past for the positions of the Governor, it seems hard to imagine that the letter will have much impact in the near term. The best one can hope for, apparently, is that — as with so many other issues — the 95% conservative House will slightly modify the positions of the 110% conservative Senate or, better yet, that the gridlock and dysfunction that grips the GOP-dominated General Assembly will help to scuttle the entire proposal. Stay tuned. The bill is scheduled to be debated on the Senate floor tomorrow.

Click here to read the full DENR letter.

Click here to read a fact sheet on the bill from the genuine watchdogs at the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club.