Under the Dome

Tweaked air toxics bill passes

cjarvis@newsobserver.comJune 21, 2012 

A bill that would ease state air toxics restrictions has been passed by both the House and the Senate.

Under the legislation, certain industrial plants – such as paper mills and power plants – will now only have to comply with federal regulations, rather than the North Carolina-specific restrictions that were set in place in 1989.

The bill had strong bipartisan support, passing the Senate 38-1 Thursday.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, had vehemently opposed the bill, but voted for it after some changes were made.

“They changed it to say that on a case-by-case basis, production plants apply for an air pollution permit,” Kinnaird explained. “The director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has to determine that they pose an unacceptable health risk. If they do, then they won’t be able to get a permit.”

Kinnaird said that North Carolina has 17 different industries that are not subject to federal air pollution standards.

Clean Air Carolina, along with more than a hundred doctors across the state, were against the bill, concerned that the emitted toxins would largely contribute to premature death.

“There are serious health risks for children, mothers and elderly,” Kinnaird said. “There’s cancer, changes in brain structure and cognitive function in children who are unborn or young. These toxins are being put out into the air that we all breathe.”

Candidates disagree on budget

No surprise here: Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory don’t see eye-to-eye on the state budget passed by legislators.

Dalton, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, said he told Gov. Bev Perdue he would veto the budget.

“I am not a fan of this budget,” Dalton said after a speech Thursday in which he criticized how the Republicans continue to under-fund education. Dalton added that he had told Perdue where he stands. “I would be inclined to veto that budget. They did repair some of the cuts that were coming this year. But there are still additional cuts this year over and above the cuts last year. I think that gets lost.”

McCrory, who also spoke at the N.C. Business Committee for Education annual meeting in Raleigh, said he would sign the budget.

Perdue was scheduled to give a speech at the event but she canceled at the last minute.

The governor’s office is facing pressure from lawmakers about altered letters supporting a road project. Perdue’s aides were gathered at the event but left abruptly a few minutes after the governor was scheduled to arrive, saying she wasn’t coming.

A spokesman later said Perdue was tied up in budget meetings.

Billboard law gets a second look

A law passed last year that allowed billboard companies to cut more trees around their signs would be tempered under a bill that began moving in the General Assembly on Thursday. The proposal by Rep. Becky Carney, a Democrat from Charlotte, would return some control to local towns and cities.

Last year’s bill was amended to give local government the authority to regulate the signs, and the House overwhelmingly approved that version. But the Senate didn’t go along with the changes, and the local-control provision was stripped out in a conference committee.

The proposed legislation would give local governments a say in how vegetation is planted to replace trees that are removed.

A roadside beautification group, Scenic N.C., sued the state Department of Transportation earlier this year over its decision not to require billboard companies to replace trees if they remove more than 60 percent of them around a sign. The department had proposed requiring that, but backed down after opposition from the industry.

The N.C. League of Municipalities welcomes the new bill, which came as a surprise. The proposal has been put into a pending Senate bill on another topic, SB428, so that it can be acted on in this short session. It was approved in the House Environment Committee, and is headed to the floor for a vote.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Rosella Age and John Frank

Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service