There has been no traction in NC legislature for environmental bills EXCEPT to LOSE protections.

We must elect MORE Democrats in the NC Legislature, to overturn destructive environmental legislation that has been passed in the past 10 years.  Thank God for Representative Pricey Harrison, who at least files bills to provide FUNDING for Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

(1) Status of a few bills:

H968, Legislative Response to Emerging Contaminants. Deb Butler (New Hanover-D), Pricey Harrison (Guilford-D), Billy Richardson (Cumberland-D), Elmer Floyd (Cumberland-D); 15 cosponsors. Appropriates $14M recurring to DEQ, reverses a $250K recurring cut to DEQ from last year, and appropriates $536K recurring to DHHS, as per Governor’s budget request to address GenX and emerging contaminants. Also, reverses ‘Rose Acre’ loophole to confirm that air emissions can be discharges to water; repeals prohibition on state environmental rules stronger than federal minimums; requires that NPDES applicants disclose chemicals in their effluent; and authorizes the NC Environmental Management Commission to require that polluters provide water filtration to downstream water providers. Referred to Rules Committee on 5/21…which is where bills go to die.

H972, Water Safety Act. Ted Davis (New Hanover-R), Holly Grange (New Hanover-R), Frank Iler (Brunswick-R), William Brisson (Bladen-R); 4 cosponsors. Twin to S724. Appropriates $537,000 for the wrong mass spectrometer for DEQ and $1.3M nonrecurring and $479K recurring to DEQ for sampling; appropriates $2M through DEQ to local utilities to extend water lines; $450K through DEQ to Cape Fear utilities for various studies; $530K recurring to DHHS; and $8M to the NC Policy Collaboratory at UNC for sampling and studies. Tasks DEQ to develop a plan for remediation of GenX (which the agency is already doing); authorizes the Governor to shut down Chemours, but with language that may restrict existing authority; requires NPDES permit holders to identify all pollutants that they have already identified in their effluent. Referred to House Environment Committee on 5/21.

(2) However, the Legislature is redefining “nuisance” in relation to large industrial hog farms. Existing neighbors will be unable to ever take any operations to court.  Below, from Robin Smith’s Environmental blog, June 18.  (Note, Robin was Assistant Secretary of DENR in the days of Governor James B Hunt and Governor Mike Easley).

Right to Farm” becomes “Right to Create a Nuisance”.  Senate Bill 711 reverses the entire concept of “Right to Farm” laws to protect the ability of agriculture operations to change, grow, and increase their impact on nearby property owners and residents. Under the bill,  a  property owner loses the right to sue a  farm for nuisance conditions that interfere with use of their property unless they file the lawsuit within the first year after the farm begins operation or within one year after there is a fundamental change in the farming operation. The Catch-22 in the bill is that “fundamental change” does not include:

(1) A change in ownership or size of the farm.

(2) An interruption of farming for a period of no more than three years.

(3) Participation in a government-sponsored agricultural program.

(4) Employment of new technology.

(5) A change in the type of agricultural or forestry product produced.

The Impact on Property Rights.  Under S711,  people who live or have a business near any agricultural operation will find their ability to protect  use and enjoyment of  their property severely limited.  A person who owns property near a soy bean farm  could not bring a nuisance lawsuit if the farm  becomes a large animal operation a year later that produces odors, pests, ammonia emissions or other impacts interfering with use of their property. Under the new law, that property owner waived the right to sue based on the nuisance conditions because they failed to complain about an entirely different kind of farm that did not have the same impacts.

The restrictions on nuisance  lawsuits against agricultural and forestry operations are also unique to those land uses. A property owner who suffers from nuisance conditions as a result of a manufacturing plant does not face the same restrictions on seeking compensation.

Status. The bill has been sent to Governor for signature or veto.