The Senate, under scrutiny for failing to even confer or debate a GenX bill that unanimously passed the House, has now come up with its own version, including substantive changes.
The proposed committee substitute will be introduced at the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee tomorrow at 5 p.m. in Room 1127/1028 of the Legislative Building.
The Senate is proposing several revisions to House Bill 189, including $2.4 million in one-time money for NC Department of Environmental Quality to address GenX and other emerging contaminants in drinking water. The money comes from the unappropriated balance in the General Fund.
The Senate version also includes up to $2 million for the NC Collaboratory, split between Fiscal Years 2017–2018 and 2018–2019. The Collaboratory would use the money to hire faculty, which, with DEQ, could use high-resolution mass spectrometers within the UNC system to research these contaminants and methods of removing them from drinking water.
That money is being siphoned from a special appropriations fund within the Office of State Budget and Management, and allocated to the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees for use as matching funds by the Collaboratory.
Senators have consistently stated that DEQ has access to this specialized equipment throughout the UNC system and doesn’t need money to buy one for the agency. However, as Policy Watch reported last month, there are still fees — some of them steep — to access the equipment, and university researchers receive priority to use it. This portion of the bill appears to help alleviate the equipment access problem by bringing universities in to collaborate with DEQ.
The Department of Health and Human Services receives no extra money under the bill. Instead, DHHS is directed to work with the federal authorities and the NC Collaboratory, which will provide entrée to UNC System faculty, on the health goals for GenX and similar compounds in drinking water.
The House version of HB 189 directed DEQ to undertake several studies, including the effectiveness of its wastewater discharge permitting program. The Senate takes that directive further, requiring DEQ to study the permitting program’s effectiveness since 1975, when the EPA delegated authority to the state to manage it. A report is due June 1.
DEQ also must cooperate with the EPA in an audit of that process, known as NPEDS permitting. The EPA already audits various DEQ operations. The two bills are listed below, annotated with their major differences. The House unanimously passed its version of HB 189 last month, but the Senate adjourned without taking it up.