Under the Dome

Environmentalists urge veto of deregulation bill

Environmentalists are making a last-ditch push to convince Gov. Pat McCrory to veto a deregulation bill the legislature passed at the end of its session last month.

McCrory has until Oct. 31 to take action on House Bill 765, a 71-page bill with dozens of provisions that lawmakers said eliminated unnecessary regulations. Opposition to the bill comes from environmentalists, who say several provisions would weaken important protections.

Opponents say 5,000 emails have been sent and 250 phone calls have been made asking the governor to veto the bill.

The N.C. Conservation Network, which represents about 100 environmental organizations, held a call-in news conference on Tuesday to recap the opposition. Speakers focused on the loss of protections for streams that dry up in the summer, cutting back on air quality monitors and allowing polluters legal protections if they voluntarily disclose violations.

Lawmakers who put together the bill tout that it represents the fifth year that the Republican-led legislature has whittled impediments to business. Environmentalists who spoke Tuesday portrayed the bill as much more significant than just trimming unnecessary regulations.

“There’s a big difference between tweaking and eliminating,” said Matt Starr, the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper. “… When eliminating rules and regulations, that’s where we have huge issues, and that’s where the fight must be taken up.”

The air-quality monitor provision in the bill would reduce them from 132 to 74 with additional reductions planned. State regulators say almost half of them are not used for air pollution detection. Dr. Jonathan Kotch, a pediatrician who is on the UNC-CH faculty and is a clean-air activist, said the monitors help reduce pollution and make for healthier children.

“If you take away a significant amount of monitors we could run around and say ‘What problem?’ If you don’t measure then you don’t know,” he said.

The bill passed the House on a vote of 73-39, with eight Democrats joining Republicans to support it and six Republicans voting with Democrats against it. It passed the Senate 28-16, with Sen. John Alexander, a Republican from Wake County, voting with Democrats.