Under the Dome

DEQ pushes back against environmentalists’ criticism

Tired of getting punched in the nose by environmentalists, the state’s environmental protection agency on Monday swung back in a video defending North Carolina’s new deregulation law.

The video features Tom Reeder, Department of Environmental Quality assistant secretary, saying environmental groups have misled the public about the impact of the Regulatory Reform Act of 2015. Its dozens of provisions affect a range of issues, but most of the attention has been brought by environmental advocates who call it the Polluter Protection Act.

Last month the N.C. Conservation Network led an email and phone call campaign to pressure Gov. Pat McCrory to veto the bill, but they were not successful. They said the bill would harm streams that dry up in the summer, reduce air quality monitors and allow polluters legal protections if they voluntarily disclose violations.

Here’s how DEQ sees it:

“The new law encourages companies to report pollution they currently do not have to disclose, helps clean up previously contaminated sites and restore them into usable land, explicitly allows more inspections at landfills, provides flexibility to re-direct air quality monitors to where they can be most effective, and achieves efficiencies by aligning North Carolina requirements and federal regulations that previously overlapped,” Reeder says.

“With all of those benefits, why is the new law under attack? Environmental special interest groups are fear-mongering to further their political agenda, and the Regulatory Reform Act is at the center of their campaign.”

The “self-audit” provision drew most of the environmentalists’ fire. Reeder said in the video that the provision is so narrowly written that it will rarely be used. He added that the immunity clause has to be approved by federal regulators and is modeled after policies in 20 other states.