State Politics

House GOP seeks to put NC back into a lawsuit challenging Obama clean water regulations

Rep. Chris Millis
Rep. Chris Millis

Last month, Attorney General Josh Stein and Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration withdrew North Carolina from a lawsuit challenging clean water regulations enacted under President Barack Obama.

Republicans weren’t happy about the move by the Democrats, and on Wednesday a House committee added a budget provision that would provide $250,000 to Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, a fellow Republican, so he can hire lawyers to rejoin other states in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit stems from the “Waters of the United States” rule, which expanded the number of small bodies of water that were subject to the regulations of the Clean Water Act. North Carolina joined the lawsuit under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

Rep. Chris Millis, a Pender County Republican who sponsored the amendment to rejoin the lawsuit, said the rule amounts to a “federal land grab.”

“Agriculture will suffer immensely if the federal rule is not rescinded or repealed,” Millis said.

President Donald Trump has said he plans to repeal the rule, and his EPA administrator has said the change will “restore the states’ important role in the regulation of water.”

Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican, said Millis’ proposal isn’t needed because Trump plans to take action. If not, the lawsuit will continue with other states.

“Adding North Carolina’s voice to this isn’t going to push it over the top,” he said. “This is sort of a full employment for lawyers amendment.”

Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, called the amendment “a real waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The money for lawyers would come from cuts to the state’s Rural Grants program, which funds infrastructure projects aimed at creating jobs in rural communities.

The amendment passed the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday in a split vote, and will now be part of the budget the House expects to vote on Thursday.