Under the Dome

Dome: New NC bills focus on Lejeune groundwater lawsuits

From staff reportsJune 30, 2014 

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield have introduced a bill that they say would help people who are trying to sue over groundwater contamination at Camp Lejeune.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month upheld North Carolina’s 10-year limit on how long people have to bring certain pollution-related lawsuits. The immediate decision affected CTS Corp., which formerly owned land near Asheville where residents now find their well water contaminated. The Camp Lejeune case, however, will be affected by the ruling.

Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro, said the legislation she filed in the Senate and that Butterfield, a Democrat from Wilson, filed in the House would clarify the intent of existing federal Superfund law and preempt state laws that limit the time in which damages could be recovered for injuries and diseases.

The state limit the Supreme Court upheld is called a statute of repose. It starts a 10-year clock running from the time of the last culpable act of the defendant, such as when a company stops polluting or sells a property. It is a stricter standard than one in the federal law – a two-year limit that starts only after people discover they’ve been harmed. The Supreme Court decided that North Carolina’s statute of repose was different from the statute of limitations in the 1980 federal Superfund law, and so it was not preempted by the federal limit.

State lawmakers also have attempted to help by altering the state law to make it clear that the statute of repose wasn’t intended to apply to the tainted groundwater cases. Gov. Pat McCrory has signed it into law.

Auditors scrutinize Wray

Auditors at the State Board of Elections have reviewed campaign finance reports filed by Rep. Michael Wray since 2004 and are awaiting more details from the Gaston Democrat on his campaign’s spending on meals, mileage and lodging, a board spokesman said.

Spokesman Josh Lawson said Wray’s campaign reports show expenses of more than $65,000 for fuel and mileage, $40,000 for meals and $5,700 for lodging since 2006.

“We are seeking clarification regarding numerous line-items within each category,” Lawson wrote in an email.

Wray, who serves as his own campaign treasurer and is the deputy Democratic leader in the House, has told the board that he would provide more details, Lawson wrote.

Attempts to reach Wray in person, by phone and by email last were unsuccessful.

Rep. Larry Hall of Durham, the House Democratic leader, said Tuesday that he has no concerns about the campaign finance situation. ““I would rest my confidence with the system working as it’s supposed to.”

The NC Insider first reported in September that Wray’s House campaign reported 427 fuel purchases between July 2011 and June 2013, or more than one every other day for two years, spending $28,700 on fuel. The campaign committee also reported spending for meals and other food purchases at least 177 times in those two years, totaling nearly $17,700, an average of about $100 a meal. Wray said last year that he drove a large SUV and that he commuted between his home in Gaston in Raleigh each day during session and that he routinely drove around his large, two-county district. He described himself as a “full-time legislator.”

State campaign finance laws allow candidate campaigns to use contributions for expenses resulting from campaigns or from holding public office. Candidates and elected officials cannot use campaign funds to pay personal expenses not related to the elected office or campaign.

By Renee Schoof of McClatchy’s Washington Bureau and Patrick Gannon of the NC Insider

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