A North Carolina state committee plans to address the growing threat of GenX and other “emerging contaminants” in the Cape Fear River through legislation on Wednesday. The legislation does not include any additional funding, and that isn’t sitting well with the environmental community.
The bill, formulated by the House Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality, does not include any appropriations, but instead, according to Dana Sargent of Clean Cape Fear, it encourages agencies like the Department of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services, to keep doing what they are doing.
“This legislation – there is no teeth to it. If you go through every part, there’s five parts to it. From Clean Cape Fear’s perception it seems that a lot of this is just kicking the can down the road, as one of the river keepers said in his public comments. It seems to just be a stalling tactic, to maybe present to the public that the house is doing something. But if you look at what they have done it is actually nothing. “
She says funding is critical.
“Number one is they fund the DEQ and DHHS. I mean if they really want to take action, they need to stop playing games. And commit to funding the regulatory body. It appears to Clean Cape Fear that the only reason they are not funding the regulatory body is this Republican legislature prefers to protect the industry polluters over the people.”
Representative Ted Davis, a Republican from New Hanover County, chairs the Committee. He says it’s a complex problem.
“There is a lot of intentional misinformation and a lot of accidental misinformation. But a lot of people have a lot of concern about things that really, they should not be concerned about. Or rise to the level of the concern that they have.”
The proposal that will be discussed Wednesday in the General Assembly directs the DEQ to study permitting processes. It directs DHHS to communicate health goals to the Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board. It instructs DEQ to coordinate with neighboring states on water quality issues.
Critics say it fails on several fronts.
“Well it’s disappointing because as many people have observed, it is directing the regulatory authorities to do what it is they are already doing, and what they already have the authority to do.”
That’s Deb Butler, Representative for New Hanover and Brunswick Counties, and a Democrat.
“Chairman Davis continues to say ‘this is a first step, is a first step, is a first step’ … well this is six months down the road we should be past first steps and we should start putting some money where the authorities need it.”
Davis says there is a reason it’s a first step.
“The session in January is only going to be a one-day session. Maybe two days. So you can’t sit here and put things in that are going to be controversial or require a lot of discussion, it’ll need to be things that I feel is palatable that the House will pass on the floor, and the Senate will pass on the floor all in what may be one day, with all the other business that is going on.”
That doesn’t cut it for Representative Butler.
“Vince it speaks of a long legacy of deregulation. If you’re part of a team that has deregulated various organizations and institutions and we have now found we have an emerging contaminant problem, you have to admit that perhaps you have gone too far and have erred on the side of corporations instead of citizens and that is painful I guess to do, but it is absolutely what must be done.”
She remains adamant in her feeling that she belongs on the select committee on water quality as well.
“If you look at all of the people on that committee, no one on the committee has more constituents directly impacted by this crisis than I do. And there is absolutely no reason, whatsoever, that I should be frozen out of this process except for the fact that I am an outspoken Democrat. I am the only Democrat representing any of coastal North Carolina.”
The General Assembly is scheduled to take up the bill this Wednesday during a special session in Raleigh.