Here comes the latest Republican assault on environmental regulation in North Carolina. It should be met with a strong protest and, if necessary, a veto from Gov. Pat McCrory.
Republicans in the state House now have moved to essentially kill off a 1971 law, the State Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA, that requires studies on the environmental effect of projects using public money or public land. Among the goals: to assess potential problems with the projects, what adverse effects there might be and how those problems could be minimized.
The bill would limit assessments of impact and expand the kinds of projects that would be exempt from review.
What the law covers – that may soon be “covered” – includes wastewater treatment plants, landfills and water basin transfers. In other words, projects that inevitably affect the environment.
Republicans seem to dismiss the law as unnecessary. One co-sponsor, Republican Rep. John Torbett of Gaston County, pronounced, “This isn’t any right-wing, extremist attempt to do anything.” We think he doth protest too much.
Since taking control of state government, Republicans have dismantled regulations every chance they’ve had and geared the Department of Environment and Natural Resources toward cooperation with industry instead of tough regulation.
And they don’t want extended hearings on it. Whenever there’s a rush to judgment, to get a bill out of committee, look out. That means backers fear that more discussion might put justifiable doubt in the minds of some of their colleagues. So this measure just sailed through the House Environment Committee and will likely do the same in the House this week.
Republicans have the votes, and they can do this, and they know it. But they don’t help their long-term credibility by steamrolling legislation and trying to stifle dissent. In this case, only one opponent, Molly Diggins of the Sierra Club, was allowed to speak. She described the proposal as essentially a repeal of a law that has brought needed oversight of public projects.