By Catherine Clabby

The biennial budget bill finalized by North Carolina’s Republican-majority General Assembly will shape spending and practices for multiple environmental initiatives for the next two fiscal years (2017-2019). Both the Senate and the House have ratified spending bills but their plans aren’t identical.
Here North Carolina Health News compares Senate and House language for environmental topics with health implications, including revised standards for lead poisoning interventions, guidance on how North Carolina should spend $92 million intended to reduce harmful diesel emissions and much more.
Members from each body are now negotiating final budget language. As we will with a much longer chart focused on health and human services, we will update this list once the Senate and House approve a uniform budget bill. Once they do, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, must approve or veto the measure.

SENATE

HOUSE

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

DIVISION OF PUBLIC HEALTH

DIVISION OF PUBLIC HEALTH

Lowers the designation of “confirmed” lead poisoning from 20 to 10 micrograms per deciliter in the blood of a child younger than six when confirmed by two tests in a 12-month period. Designation prompts DHHS to require remediation of lead poisoning hazards at a residence and other addresses a child frequents. Bill also changes designation of “elevated lead blood” from 10 to 5 micrograms per deciliter. That designation would prompt DHHS to advise parents, guardians and property owners of importance of regular cleaning in homes and of children’s hands and faces. DHHS will also alert all parties of the need to shield children from known lead contamination sources, including some toys, vinyl mini blinds, playground equipment, drinking water, soil and painted surfaces. Lowers the designation of “confirmed” lead poisoning from 20 to 10 micrograms per deciliter in the blood of a child younger than six and a pregnant woman when confirmed by two tests in a 12-month period. Designation prompts DHHS to require remediation of lead poisoning hazards at a residence and other addresses a child or pregnant woman frequents. Bill also changes designation of “elevated lead blood” from 10 to 5 micrograms per deciliter in children and pregnant women. That designation would prompt DHHS to advise children’s parents, guardians, pregnant women and property owners of the importance of regular cleaning in homes and of children’s hands and faces. DHHS will also alert all parties of the need to shield individuals from known lead contamination sources, including some toys, vinyl mini blinds, playground equipment, drinking water, soil and painted surfaces.

DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY

DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY

GENERAL FUND APPROPRIATION GENERAL FUND APPROPRIATION
2017–2018: $70,669,650 2018–2019: $71,154,583 2017–2018: $79,078,233 2018–2019: $78,913,320
EMPLOYEES: Cuts 45.5 positions, most filled EMPLOYEES: Cuts 4.75 vacant positions
Eliminated 14 positions include all within the Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service (DEACS) program which provides help to industry and businesses with voluntary waste reduction, recycling, water/energy efficiency and permit assistance programs; two support positions from each of the state’s seven regional DEQ offices; a Chief Deputy Secretary, the Legislative Affairs Program Manager, a communications staff member and two environment education positions. Eliminated positions include vacant positions — an engineer and “community partner” — in the energy, mineral and land resources divisions; a hydrogeologist position in the energy office; and vacant positions in the Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service. But the bill appropriates $2.9 million to continue funding DEACS.

HEALTH-RELATED APPROPRIATIONS

HEALTH-RELATED APPROPRIATIONS

FerryMon: Funds $150,000 in 2017-2018 to the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to use state owned ferries for water quality monitoring program in the Neuse and Pamlico rivers, along with Pamlico Sound estuary.
Provides $486,538 to continue annually funding the mercury switch program, to be funded via a 20-cent certificate of title fee transfer from the Division of Motor Vehicles. Mercury auto switches were used to control convenience lighting and anti-lock brake systems in many vehicles manufactured before 2003. Removing them before junked vehicles are crushed or shredded could reduce circulation of mercury, a toxin that affects the nervous system and the brain and is especially dangerous to developing fetuses and young children.
A measure to advance a program funded with $1.3 million in 2016-2017 to treat rather than prevent nutrient pollution from agriculture, untreated sewage, development and other activities in Falls and Jordan Lake. Instructs DEQ to start testing or sampling for trials of algaecide or phosphorous-locking technologies by September 1, 2017. The study shall determine whether treatments improve water quality but not if they are more cost-effective than prevention. Exempts contracts from state statute sections promoting small business or minority contractors and bidding for contracts.
For 2017-2018, allocates $1,000,000 for grants to improve water and sewer infrastructure to expand function, make repairs and protect water quality.

HEALTH-RELATED PROVISIONS

HEALTH-RELATED PROVISIONS

Landfills built before 1983: Frees owners of land hosting landfills built prior to 1983 from a state program intended to develop remediation plans for sites requiring it. Instead, owners can sign an agreement accepting all liability for potential on-site and off-site impacts from a landfill of that age and provides financial assurance, set by DEQ, to deal with future impacts. Does not apply if land was used as a municipal landfill and the owner of the land was not compensated. DEQ will set financial assurance requirement “in a reasonable manner based on the information on current site conditions and historical disposal records or other information provided by the property owner.” Landfills built before 1983: DEQ must develop a program to permit owners of property containing a pre-1983 landfill to undertake site assessment and risk-based remediation and development of a remedial action plan independent of a DEQ priority ranking for these landfills. That holds if: assessment and remediation activities evaluate and address all on-site and off-site risks and have work plans that are timely reviewed and approved by DEQ, landowner provides financial assurance for any future impacts, DEQ sets a financial assurance requirement in a reasonable manner based on the information on site conditions and historical disposal records or other information provided by the property owner. Property owner must sign an assumption of liability agreement agreeing for potential on-site and off-site impacts from landfill. Property owners assuming liability under this section shall retain cost recovery liability protections.
Spending Volkswagen settlement money : Mandates spending of NC’s expected $92 million share of the Volkswagen diesel-emissions-fraud settlement to prioritize spending attracts new employers to the state, encourage job growth among existing employers and prioritize benefits to small businesses. Any replacement of vehicles shall prioritize new diesel or alternate-fueled engines and parts manufactured in this state. Spending plans must be submitted to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, the chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and the Fiscal Research Division; the General Assembly will appropriate the funds. The spending plan must be consistent with legislators’ appropriation. Spending Volkswagen settlement money: Directs the governor-appointed agency that will plan and manage spending of NC’s expected $92 million from the Volkswagen diesel-emissions-fraud settlement to consult with the Department of Transportation and other “interested” state agencies. Directs lead agency to consider the following: How much proposed spending will attract new employers to NC, encourage job growth, benefit small businesses, and use diesel or alternate-fuel vehicles, engines, and parts built or assembled in NC. Stresses the importance reducing emissions from state-owned vehicles through “repowering” or replacement. Spending plans must be submitted to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, the chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and the Fiscal Research Division; the General Assembly will appropriates the funds. The spending plan must be consistent with legislators’ appropriation.
Keeping EPA lawsuit alive: Assigns $1 million in recurring funds to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for both fiscal years in 2017-2019 fiscal year to subsidize legal costs opposing the EPA’s “Waters of the United States” rule. Created by the Obama administration, it tags all tributaries to rivers as qualifying for federal protections, even if the waters don’t flow all year. (Editor’s note: Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper ‘s administration is withdrawing from a lawsuit challenging the rule that Republican Gov. Pat McCrory supported. The Trump administration has taken steps, after citing opposition to the rule, to rescind or revise the rule.) Keeping EPA lawsuit alive: Assigns $250,000 in FY17-18 only from reserves and transfers to offset potential costs from state intervention in federal lawsuit challenging EPA’s “Waters of the United State” rule. That money would be moved over to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Water and wastewater infrastructure: A $100,000 appropriation to the Division of Water Infrastructure for the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory at UNC-Chapel HIll to collaborate with many other groups, including the Local Government Commission and the Division of Water Infrastructure of DEQ to create a predictive analysis tool to assess the condition of municipal water and wastewater infrastructure within the State. At a minimum, this analysis shall build upon the findings and data included in the 2017 Statewide Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Master Plan.
Wind power moratorium: Moratorium forbids DEQ and the Coastal Resources Commission from considering a permit application for a new or expanded wind energy facility until Dec. 31, 2020. State purpose: To give the General Assembly time to study the impact of future wind energy facilities and energy infrastructure on “military operations, training, and readiness”.
Required environmental reports: Shifts multiple DEQ reports to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources, including reports on fishery management plans, the use of recycled materials, the ecosystem restoration fund, time required to process applications to the One-Stop for Certain Environmental Permits Programs and the Express Permit and Certification Reviews.
Study solid waste tax: The Environmental Review Commission shall study the state’s solid waste disposal tax, examining a detailed history of the annual revenue it generates, its distribution to DEQ and local governments; a history of DEQ expenditures, all of the tax-funded DEQ, plans for future work, the balance of the Inactive Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund; and any other issue the Commission deems relevant. Report, recommendations and legislative proposals due to the 2018 regular session “of the 2017 General Assembly upon its convening.” Study solid waste tax: The Environmental Review Commission shall study the state’s solid waste disposal tax, examining a detailed history of the annual revenue it generates, its distribution to DEQ and local governments; a history of DEQ expenditures, all of the tax-funded DEQ, plans for future work, the balance of the Inactive Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund; and any other issue the Commission deems relevant. Report, recommendations and legislative proposals due to the 2018 regular session “of the 2017 General Assembly upon its convening.”
Evaluating need for sediment commission: DEQ to study abolishing the Sedimentation Control Commission and transfer of duties to the Environmental Management Commission. Report due April 2018. Evaluating need for sediment commission: DEQ to study abolishing the Sedimentation Control Commission and transfer of duties to the Environmental Management Commission. Report due April 2018.

CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS

CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS

$16,760,000 awarded and $1,112,000 carried forward for water resource development projects eligible for an estimated $14,085,000 in federal funds. Awards $11.8 million and $1,112,000 carried forward for water resources development projects. State funds will match $14.1 million in federal funds and $8.4 million in local funds.
The Neuse River in a postcard from the turn of the 20th century. Photo courtesy: Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards, UNC Chapel Hill Libraries

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Catherine Clabby

Catherine Clabby (senior environmental reporter) is a writer and editor. A former senior editor at American Scientist magazine, Clabby won multiple awards reporting on science, medicine and higher education...