NC budget takes aim at our state’s environmental rules and protections

The current version of the NC budget takes a huge toll on our state’s environment.

NC Gov. Bev Perdue

The AP has a great story putting these cuts in context.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A final Republican-penned state budget likely heading to North Carolina Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue’s desk takes aim at environmental regulations and funds designed to protect land and water, expand parks and track mountainsides to help avoid development in the path of potential landslides.

The state Senate voted 31-19 on a party-line vote Thursday to give its final approval to a $19.7 billion spending plan that would reduce spending in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources by more than 12 percent, cutting the agency’s overall work force by about 160 positions. About 5 percent of the current work force would be eliminated.

Money to help local governments and conservation groups protect water quality would be slashed by tens of millions of dollars. The bill also would stop the state department from setting rules that are more stringent than minimum rules by the federal government on things like water and air quality unless expressly directed in future legislation. Similar restrictions were in place in North Carolina during the 1970s and `80s but repealed by the 1990s.

“This budget is bad news for North Carolina’s environment,” said Margaret Hartzell, a lobbyist for the group Environment North Carolina.

The News & Observer also had an excellent editorial against the policy rider that Republicans are pushing that will prohibit NC from setting rules that are more stringent than minimum rules by the federal government on things like water and air quality.

Our coast, our mountains

Montana doesn’t have barrier islands. Neither does Nebraska. Might not environmental regulation specific to a state that does, formulated by leaders in North Carolina, be both the logical and good course? Protecting coastal wetlands is no easy matter, and requires up-close inspection and analysis. That’s never truer in a state that has seen 40 years of booming growth along its coast.

The state’s mountain region, the site of much resort development, also has specific needs when it comes to environmental regulation (tree-harvesting, for one example).

And what if the state faces a pollution threat because of, for example, the overflowing of hog waste lagoons? Shouldn’t lawmakers be able to act to address those specific concerns?

Those who defend the move to hamstring regulators say there are ways the state could act if need be. But proponents of what might be called the “new Hardison Amendments” also want any new regulations to pass a litmus test called a cost-benefit analysis, which is another way of saying, “If it costs too much, then benefit, smenefit.”

How curious it is that Republicans, who often attack the federal government as meddlesome and bloated, want North Carolina to bow on bended knee to federal regulations as all-knowing and all-seeing. We thought the GOP was the party of states’ rights versus the big, bad feds.

And yet through these types of efforts in the legislature, North Carolina’s political leaders will in effect be slapping the state in handcuffs. This is shortsighted, illogical lawmaking based on a “business-friendly” philosophy for a state that is about as business-friendly as it gets.

Want to take action on these issues?
Sign the NC Sierra Club’s petition and let your state legislators know that your state deserves better than this.
Better yet, call Gov. Bev Perdue’s office ( 919.733.4240 ) and demand a veto unless the General Assembly restores funding to adequately protect NC’s environment. If we don’t stand strong now, it will take years to repair the damage that this budget will cause.
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