Introduction: Clean & Dirty NC Laws

The North Carolina General Assembly (NC House and NC Senate) has immense power in protecting, maintaining, and enhancing the state’s water quality.  We will highlight actions in the General Assembly that directly affect our state’s water quality.

To start with:

Here are a few vital laws currently being considered:

    • HB162 passed the Senate and has not yet been acted on by the House: It would prohibit all state agencies from adopting rules that would cost anyone affected (including corporations), more than $100 million over a five-year period and would require governor approval for rules costing more than $10 million over a five-year period.


    • HB189 passed the House. It would provide $2.3 million to the NC Dpt. of Environmental Quality to purchase necessary equipment and requires DEQ conduct several studies.(Legislative cuts to the agency’s budget beginning in 2009 have led to a two-year backlog on some wastewater permits. Details about DEQ budget cuts were published by Robin Smith, who served as the agency’s Assistant Secretary for 12 years Robin Smith, at her online publication.) 


  • HB189 – Senate Substitute of above. It does not provide funding for DEQ to hire staff or purchase necessary equipment but directs DEQ to work with universities and provides funding to the UNC Chapel Hill Collaboratory to manage this collaboration. It calls for an EPA audit of DEQ and a review of the permitting program. It requires DEQ set up a collaboration with neighboring states to share information on emerging contaminants. It provides $2.4 million to DEQ to implement the act.Cape Fear River Watch’s response to the above legislation, read this Feb. 3, 2018 op-ed by Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette and Southern Environmental Law’s Executive Director Derb Carter.

A Couple Vital Laws on the Books:

    • HB467, “An Act to Clarify the Remedies Available in Private Nuisance Actions Against Agricultural and Forestry Operations.” On March 23, 2017, Murphy-Brown’s supporters in the N.C. House of Representatives filed a bill that attempted to influence the ongoing nuisance litigation filed by residents living near CAFOs.  The act proposed a new statute to apply “to actions filed, arising, or pending on or after” the enactment of HB467, and it reduced the financial compensation available to Plaintiffs filing “private nuisance” complaints (currently against Murphy-Brown.)  Lobbying efforts by Waterkeeper Alliance and partners led to an amendment eliminating HB467’s effect on pending litigation, but the bill still passed.  Governor Cooper vetoed it, stating that that it amounted to “special protection for one industry” that threatened to “weaken our nuisance laws.” But the super-majority overrode his veto and the law was enacted on May 11, 2017.


    • NC General Statue 143-213(9) was established in 2012 and removes DEQs authority to regulate air emissions that pollute state waters by removing ‘emission’ from the definition of ‘discharge.’ Recent evidence shows that GenX is contaminating nearby wells and lakes through air emissions.


    • NC General Statute 150B-19.3 (the Hardison Amendment), was originally passed in the 1970s and restricts the state government from creating environmental regulations that are more protective than federal regulations. The laws were repealed in the 1980s and for the next 30 years, North Carolina was considered a national leader in its approach to environmental regulations. But, in 2011, the Hardison amendment was reinstated.


    • NC General Statute 143-215.1(c)(1) (Applications for Permits and Renewals for Facilities Discharging to the Surface Waters) does not prohibit permitted facilities from discharging toxic substances that have no EPA or state regulatory standard. (There is no regulatory standard for emerging contaminants like GenX.)


  • NC General Statute G.S. 143-215.1 does not require automatic permit suspension when a business is found to be discharging a pollutant not authorized or disclosed in its permit application; nor does it mandate that 1). a company in violation of its discharge permit provide necessary filtration to affected municipalities or that 2). a company is financial responsible for removal of their discharge pollutants


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