Democratic, GOP compromise tightens polluters’ self-reporting provision

Posted by Craig Jarvis on June 1, 2014 

The sweeping regulatory overhaul bill SB734 heads over to the House this week after the Senate gave it final approval with a few tweaks.

One of those tweaks addressed a concern that environmentalists had with one of the provisions. The bill grants immunity from fines and penalties for companies that report to enforcement agencies environmental violations discovered through self-auditing. It also creates a legal privilege protecting the audits, and those involved in preparing the audits, from having to testify about them.

Critics said that could give polluters a free ride without fear of consequences. Supporters said it would encourage companies to report violations, which would allow regulators to ensure they are cleaned up.

Sen. Josh Stein, a Democrat from Raleigh, got together with bill sponsor Sen. Trudy Wade, a Republican from Greensboro, and convinced her to put restrictions on the immunity and privilege provisions.

Now the bill would allow owners or operators of a polluting facility to exercise that privilege or immunity once in a two-year period, no more than twice in a five-year period and no more than three times in a 10-year period.

Environmental groups still have problems with other provisions in the bill restricting legal action against polluters, diminishing air pollution monitoring, and eliminating protections for some isolated wetlands.

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