Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Enviornmental Issues 7-31-06

1-Year Halt on Landfills Passed

Legislators on Thursday gave final approval to a one-year moratorium on new landfills. The legislation (SB 353) halts the permitting process of some proposed projects and implements a study to determine the environmental implications of landfills on North Carolina, especially in minority and low-income communities.

I worked with environmental advocates in pushing for the moratorium in the House after the Senate sent us the bill based on a 48-0 vote. Six proposed new landfills – located in Camden, Brunswick, Hyde, Scotland, Richmond, and Columbus counties – which would significantly expand the state’s landfill capacity. The proposed projects would turn North Carolina, which is now a net exporter of trash, into the fourth-largest waste importing state, with an additional 8 million tons of trash expected annually from the 6 proposed sites. Many of the sites are in environmentally sensitive areas.

Stormwater Rules Approved

Legislators gave final approval on Wednesday to new rules that oversee how stormwater runoff is managed in more than 150 small- and medium-sized communities (SB 1566). The Senate voted unanimously to approve a House version of the bill that lays out rules for land developers who disturb at least one acre of land in unincorporated counties and small cities and towns. These developers would have to create and enforce a plan as to how they intend to control rain and other water runoff to reduce the chances that pollutants could enter waterways. The bill would require subdivisions and other home developers to install stormwater controls if they build near shellfish waters. Developers would have to set up retention ponds or vegetation to control rainwater runoff in coastal areas where more than 12 percent of the land is covered by buildings, pavement, gravel or athletic courts. This is a major step in water quality protection, and has been several years in the making. The measure now goes to Gov. Easley’s desk.

It was a good week for the environment, in sharp contrast to weeks that we’ve reported on the subject in previous newsletters. In addition to the landfill moratorium and the stormwater bill, there is more good news. A terrible bill relating to contaminated sites (HB1778, SB1132) was put to rest for this session. It would have drastically changed NC’s policies regarding cleanup of contaminated sites and resulted in potentially significant groundwater resource loss. The measure will likely return in 2007, but it is hoped with more time for all stakeholders to negotiate a more acceptable proposal. Also, SB1862, regarding nutrient offset payments for development in sensitive areas of the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins, was amended via another bill, S 927, to reinstate the originally proposed phosphorus fee, leaving the bill only half as bad as it had been. S.2051, approved by the House last week, promotes energy and water efficiency, promotes the use of biofuels, and codifies energy assistance for low income individuals.

The news wasn’t all good. HB2812, Energy Future Act, which I introduced with 65 co-sponsors, and was headed to the omnibus study bill, was yanked out of the study bill at the last minute at the request of the Duke and Progress Energy lobbyists. The study would have required NC’s Public Utilities Commission to take into account public health and environmental impacts in the cost of electricity generation. I have been advocating for a more sustainable energy policy in NC, and this was to be a step in that direction.

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