Maybe it’s just North Carolina Republicans’ way of following the lead, using that term loosely, of President Donald Trump. But GOP leaders are steadily dismantling sound environmental protection laws in the name of helping business. And some business leaders, who ought to know better, are applauding these irresponsible maneuvers.
The latest: a repeal of a ban on plastic shopping bags on the Outer Banks. That law, which not only was supposed to rid the area of blowing, ugly bags but also to protect fish and wildlife such as seabirds, was scuttled in a bill from the state Senate. It now goes to the House, where Speaker Tim Moore doubtless will bow obediently before Phil Berger, Senate president pro-tem.
This is a disgraceful action, and one which will have negative environmental impact and, whether the shortsighted backers know it or not, negative economic impact as well. People from around the country have come to the Outer Banks for decades for one primary reason, breathtaking scenery and outdoor activities not rooted in amusement parks and ice cream stands. A main attraction is the almost untouched-by-humankind feel in some areas.
Allowing the return of plastic bags will take care of that over the long term.
But might partisanship, in addition to just plain ignorance and pressure from business, also be a factor? Former long-time Senate leader Marc Basnight, who pushed the ban, lived on the Outer Banks. Basnight was a tough Democratic leader who paid little attention to Republicans. That was unfortunate, but it is petty of Republicans now to use their power to claw back one of the good things Basnight did for his region and for the state. GOP leaders aren’t stopping there, of course, as more environmental deregulation is coming.
That’s evidenced by another provision in the “bag bill.” Local governments would be limited in imposing stream-side buffers limiting development. They could do no more than follow state regulations. That means that if a local government believed a particularly fragile stream needed better buffers, it could do nothing and would have to go along with developers.
Molly Diggins, long-suffering but determined director of the state chapter of the Sierra Club, characterized the Senate as “becoming a no-science zone.” She’s right. These are hard times for the environment in North Carolina, which are going to lead to harder times as there are spills, or contamination from development, or hog waste problems, or plastic bags blowing across the sands of the Outer Banks.