House Bill 189 made it through the House late Wednesday, freeing up funds focused on the GenX and emerging contaminants problem. It now goes to the Senate, where its future is not so bright.
Was it all for nothing?
That’s what concerned citizens are asking themselves after Wednesday’s unanimous vote for House Bill 189, which would send $2.3 million to the NC Department of Environmental Quality to pay for water quality sampling, permitting backlogs, and measuring the air and water for GenX.
House members from both sides of the aisle spoke strongly in favor of the legislation. Here’s Rep. Holly Grange of New Hanover County.
“So I ask all of you to look at this as a good first step, and please support this bill. Thank you.”
And Rep. Deb Butler, of New Hanover and Brunswick Counties.
“These contaminants are emerging at an extraordinary and rapid rate. This is a logical, substantive step that costs us no money but provides another tool with which to battle greedy corporations like Chemours.”
But that battle won’t happen without Senate approval.
Senate leader Phil Berger said after the House vote that he – and other Senate Republicans – do not support the move.
Democrat Deb Butler says they are not one step closer than they were seven months ago, and called Wednesday’s House vote a charade and political theater, intended to make GOP leaders of that political body look good.
Meanwhile, Berger said he will not bring the bill up for a vote until the General Assembly’s short session in May, where it is expected to die.
STATEMENT FROM SENATE LEADER PHIL BERGER: Jan. 10, 2018
“Senate Republicans have already shown we are serious about finding real solutions that will actually improve water quality in the Cape Fear River and hold violators accountable for dumping GenX into the region’s water supply. That’s why several months ago we passed legislation to immediately and directly address the problem of GenX contamination in the lower Cape Fear region. We provided funding to local public utilities to begin removing GenX from public water supplies. And we commissioned studies to quantify the amount of GenX in the Cape Fear River and determine the impact it could have on public health and safety. The first round of data is due this spring.
“What the House passed today unfortunately does nothing to prevent GenX from going into the water supply. It leaves North Carolina taxpayers holding the bag for expenditures that should be paid for by the company responsible for the pollution, fails to give DEQ authority to do anything they can’t already do, and authorizes the purchase of expensive equipment that the state can already access for free.
“We are waiting for the data we required in October so we can take meaningful action to address this problem in the short session.”