Thursday, August 23, 2007


We strengthened regulations for the construction of landfills this session, requiring companies to prove they have adequate funding to maintain, close, and provide post-closure maintenance for a landfill. Several companies had planned to build landfills in North Carolina before legislators put a moratorium on such projects last year. The companies were attracted to the state because of our inexpensive land, our central location on the East Coast, our weak regulations, and lack of a surcharge on garbage. The bill that has been signed into law, Senate Bill 1492, (I was primary sponsor of the House companion, House Bill 1233), allows the state to collect $2 a ton for garbage disposal. Half of the money will be used to assess and update more than 700 old landfills and dumps that operated before the state adopted environmental protection standards. The other half will go to local governments and the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund to help pay for recycling and other solid waste management issues. The bill also creates an efficient and enforceable computer collection and recovery system, and it allows the state to reject a landfill permit based on what impact the facility will have on poor or minority communities. This change in the law will probably prevent the planned construction of several large landfills in the state. A companion bill, Senate Bill 6, allows those companies to be paid reparations if the new regulations prevent them from getting a permit to operate a landfill, which sets a bad precedent and is bad public policy.

The state's Land for Tomorrow Initiative will get $120 million in bond money to protect our forests, parks and greenways, historic areas, wildlife sanctuaries, and stream borders from development. The Land for Tomorrow partnership is a coalition of people and organizations throughout the state that is promoting the preservation of 1 million acres in North Carolina over the next five years. The Division of Marine Fisheries will get $20 million of the money to help preserve beach access. The Farmland Preservation Trust Fund will get an additional $8 million to protect farms from development. The pressure to develop land in the state has grown increasingly as the state's population grows and there is a need for more housing and commercial development, as a result we are losing farmland at the fastest rate in the nation. Also, some farmers leaving the industry feel forced to sell their property because of high land costs. This $128 million will help them and help make sure the state has healthy development.

An important change to the "present use value" tax rate system has passed the House and is eligible for consideration in the short session. I introduced House Bill 1889, with Representatives Brubaker, Gibson, and Hill, which would remove a disincentive for conservation that exists in the present use value system. Under current law, if a property owner takes a land out of cultivation and turns it over to wildlife or conservation management, he or she must pay a large tax penalty. This bill creates a new category of present use value for such instances, and was approved overwhelmingly by the House at the end of the session, despite opposition from the counties, Farm Bureau, and Forestry Association. I was proud of my colleagues for recognizing the problem and supporting this bill which we have been working on for over 5 years.

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