Perdue lets sea-level bill become law

Controversial provision ties forecast to history, not scientific studies

cjarvis@newsobserver.com, lbonner@newsobserver.comAugust 1, 2012 

PERDUE10-NE-062612-RTW

Governor Bev Perdue calls for more funding for education in the North Carolina State Budget during a press conference at the State Capital on Tuesday June 26, 2012 in Raleigh, N.C. Perdue said she had met with Speaker of the House Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger last week in a effort to increase spending for education. Perdue said she received a letter today saying they would not agree to her proposal.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com

— Gov. Bev Perdue on Wednesday cleared her desk of the final bills from the legislative session, signing three and letting the controversial sea-level legislation become law without her signature.

A coalition of environmental groups and businesses had urged the governor to veto the sea-level bill and two of the other pieces of legislation, saying they benefitted only special interests.

The three bills she signed Wednesday were:

• HB 953, which delays stormwater-control standards for new development in the Jordan Lake watershed for two years.

• SB229, which loosens water-quality regulations for compost facilities, airports and development in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins, and amends more than a dozen environmental laws.

• HB585, which exempts newer vehicles from annual emissions inspections. It was not among the bills that environmental groups had asked the governor to veto.

It was HB819, though, that attracted the most attention earlier this year with its provision that would have based forecasts of rising ocean levels on historical trends rather than climate science, which predicts a faster rise and would have a bigger impact on coastal development.

The notion that the state could simply ignore science so that the effects of global warming wouldn’t get in the way of commerce was ridiculed in national publications and by TV comedians.

Ultimately, the bill included a four-year moratorium on the state Coastal Resources Commission authorizing any sea-level forecast to be used as the basis for regulations while the issue is studied. It also gave local governments the authority to develop their own scientific studies during that time.

Perdue released a message saying she let the bill become law because of the local-control issue. But, she said, the General Assembly should take up the issue and work on a way to give state agencies the same “flexibility” as local governments in the next four years.

“North Carolina should not ignore science when making public policy decisions,” Perdue said.

Environmental groups had been urging the governor to veto that bill along with HB953 and SB229.

“We’re disappointed in the governor’s decision not to veto these bills,” said Derb Carter, director of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “These bills came from the General Assembly, which continues to slash protections for our air and water, while producing no meaningful new jobs for the state.”

The Sierra Club also criticized Perdue over the sea-level bill, and for signing the other bills, singling out SB229 as “full of loopholes and benefits to polluters.”

“All three measures primarily benefit developers at the expense of North Carolina’s taxpayers, who will end up paying more in the long run to deal with the increased costs of failing to address sea level rise as well as water pollution caused by poorly planned development,” said Molly Diggins, state director of the Sierra Club.

None of the bills’ main sponsors could be reached Wednesday evening.

Perdue had until midnight Thursday to decide what to do with the four bills.

Her actions Wednesday brought to an end mounting speculation that she would have to call the legislature back into session this summer to consider any bills that she might veto.

It brought to a close a historic session in which Republicans regained control of both chambers for the first time in 140 years. GOP lawmakers’ clash with the Democratic governor resulted in 19 vetoes, 11 of which were overridden.

Jarvis: 919-829-4576

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