News | July 21, 2015

Polluter protection bill aims to eliminate important N.C. environmental safeguards

The North Carolina General Assembly continues its legislative strong-arming as it considers a bill that went, overnight, from a one-pager on gravel transportation to a 50-plus-page bill aimed broadly at removing protective environmental regulations.

Even the state Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) initially balked at the provisions that appeared.

“The complaints that would be generated as a result of this proposed legislation would be innumerable,” said a document put out by DENR in response to House Bill 765's first draft.

SELC developed a fact sheet outlining each of the many detrimental environmental provisions in the bill. Some of the most noteworthy include:

  • Pollution immunity: This broadly applied immunity for environmental violations would undercut the well-established deterrent effect of fines and penalties, as any polluter could avoid the penalty by “confessing.”
  • Reduced risk remediation: This section would significantly expand a state program that allows for incomplete cleanup of soil and groundwater contamination. If expanded, it would apply to all sources of contamination, past, present and future while limiting protections for neighbors.
  • Wastewater permitting: By allowing engineers to self-permit onsite wastewater systems like septic, the bill would remove important checks-and-balances at a time when increased development demands the opposite.
  • Air Permits: This provision would effectively remove the right of third parties to challenge air permits by allowing challenges only after a permit has been issued and implemented.

This list only scratches the surface of the many problems introduced in this proposed legislation. SELC will be working hard in the coming weeks to insure North Carolinans and those who represent them understand how much is at stake if this bill becomes law.