New law bans policies on sea-level change for 4 years

Measure now in Gov. Perdue’s hands

jfrank@newsobserver.comJuly 3, 2012 

— After a wide-ranging debate on the validity of climate-change science Tuesday, state lawmakers agreed to ban any state agencies from making policies on sea level change until 2016.

The House approved the bill in a 68-46 partisan vote. With the Senate’s approval Monday, it now moves to Gov. Bev Perdue.

The measure is a watered-down version of the original legislation to put strict limits on the state’s use of climate change data, which drew international attention and made the state a punch line on a late-night comedy show.

Republican lawmakers had sought to quash a March 2010 report from scientists with the Coastal Resources Commission that projected a 20-to-55-inch rise by the end of the century, disputing the science because it would hurt coastal development.

Under the new language in House bill 819, the commission must re-evaluate its study and consider scientific literature debunking rising water levels and the economic cost to the state if it prohibits development based on sea-level regulations. It also seeks different predictions for different coastal regions. The final report is due by March 31, 2015. No regulations are allowed to take effect until July 1, 2016.

The debate comes as the U.S. Geological Survey recently projected that rates are increasing up to four times faster between Cape Hatteras north to Boston.

Rep. Pat McElraft, a Republican real estate agent from Emerald Isle who pushed the bill, said the commission would now “use some real science” to evaluate the coast, saying some scientists have debunked global warming.

“You can believe whatever you want about global warming, but when you go to make planning policies here for our residents and protecting their property values and insurance rates ... it’s a very serious thing to us on the coast,” she said.

Democratic lawmakers such as Raleigh’s Deborah Ross countered the argument, saying “ignorance is not bliss, it’s dangerous.”

“By putting our heads in the sand, literally, for four years,” she said. “We are not helping property owners. We are hurting them because we are not giving them information they may need to protect their property.”

Republican John Blust of Greensboro appeared indignant about being lectured on climate change, saying “I don’t know what the planet is going to be like in 100 years.”

“If you all don’t agree with our point of view, somehow you’re bad, somehow you’re ignorant ... there is a constant almost intimidation factor going on,” he said.

Frank: 919-829-4698

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