By Gabe Rivin
Gov. Pat McCrory has given his signature to a bill that eliminates several environmental rules, including requirements for idling trucks and farmers who want to burn agricultural plastics.
In signing HB 765 on Oct. 22, McCrory capped a 2015 legislative session that included numerous efforts to redefine the state’s rules for polluters.
HB 765, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2015, is a broad piece of legislation, which, among other things:
- eliminates restrictions on heavy-duty vehicles’ idling;
- requires that the state potentially stop using some air pollution monitors;
- allows some farmers to burn agricultural plastics instead of sending them to landfills or recycling them;
- and prohibits the state from enforcing new federal rules governing air pollution from wood heaters.
Environmental groups, which had lobbied McCrory to veto HB 765, decried the bill’s passage into law.
“This bill undoes so much of the progress our state has made in the last decade to clean up our air and water, build healthier communities, and create a stronger workforce,” said Dan Crawford, the director of governmental relations for the N.C. League of Conservation Voters, according to a press release. “Now, using false claims about how these regulations were holding back business, our governor and legislative leaders have allowed polluters to have their way with our natural resources and the future prosperity of our state.”
But the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, until recently known as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, applauded the bill. In a blog post Oct. 26, the department wrote that the new law “will help focus resources on the environmental issues that matter most and improve environmental protection.”
HB 765 isn’t the only new law from this year’s legislative session that addresses environmental issues. On Sept. 30, McCrory signed SB 513, the Farm Act of 2015. The new law allows some older, retired hog farms to reopen without meeting new requirements to control animal waste.
And in June, McCrory signed HB 795, a bill that rewrote central provisions of the State Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA. Like the regulatory reform bill, HB 795 received widespread criticism from environmental groups, who said it effectively repealed SEPA, a decades-old law that requires the state to consider environmental effects from some state-funded projects.
Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Hendersonville), a vice chairman of the House Environment Committee, also criticized SEPA reform, echoing environmentalists’ claim that the bill was essentially a repeal of the older state law.