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By Catherine Clabby and Rose Hoban

Usually, in the second year of the legislative biennium, lawmakers return to Raleigh to revise spending for the second year of the biennial budget bill written and ratified the prior year. Usually, the House presents a budget, the Senate revises that budget and conferees from each chamber hammer out the differences in a process that’s open to amendment. In the past, we have presented the House and Senate appropriations side by side for comparison.
This year deviated from the norm, however, in that the budget was negotiated between the two chambers, then the language was dropped into an existing bill which had been approved by both chambers. This meant that the public amendment process was absent and that lawmakers from each chamber only could vote up or down.
The budget bill and it’s accompanying committee have content beyond simply numbers, they also often contain policy proscriptions, the bill sometimes contains language from such policy bills which dropped wholesale into the document.
Here North Carolina Health News compares language from 2017 and 2018 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, how the state will address the topic of GenX contamination of the lower Cape Fear River and more.

DEQ Budget from SB 257, enacted 6/28/2017

DEQ Budget from HB 99, enacted 6/12/2018

Staffing: Eliminated 4.75 positions (including vacant, unfilled positions) — a legislative affairs manager and a communications specialist in administrative services; .25FTE in the waste management division/underground storage tank section; .25FTE in the solid waste management division for a paralegal and for a program assistant; .25FTE program assistant in the underground storage tank section; shifts a total of two water quality/supply positions to federal funds. Total reduction in state funds $348,495 Staffing: Eliminates 3.28 positions in coal ash management program.
Restores $250,000 originally targeted at “reorganization through reduction” elimination of positions originally mandated for FY 2018-19 in last year’s budget.
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. FerryMon: Re-authorizes $150,000 to the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for use during FY 2018-19 to use state owned ferries for water quality monitoring program in the Neuse and Pamlico rivers, along with Pamlico Sound estuary.
PFAS/GenX
Power to shut down Chemours: Authorizes the governor to require a facility to cease all operations and activities that result in the production of a per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into the air, surface water and groundwater. If: the facility has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, DEQ finds the facility has unauthorized discharges that have exceeded a state Environmental Management Commission standard for groundwater, surface water, or air quality or if a facility exceeded of a PFAS health advisory standard established by the US EPA. The facility must have received more than one notice of violation from DEQ within a two-year period and DEQ has been unable to stop all ongoing unauthorized discharges. And the best science must indicate that ongoing discharges present a danger to the public health. A DEQ memo that opposed this says provisions are “wholly unnecessary” due to agency’s authority to suspend and revoke permits, take emergency action to protect public health or the environment, and seek injunctive relief in court. “The adoption of new enforcement criteria in the Water Safety Act could cloud the scope of DEQ’s existing authority and impede DEQ’s ongoing actions against Chemours.” (Note: DEQ argues it already has this power)
Authority to Make Chemours Provide New Water Supplies; DEQ says it has that too: If the governor orders, the DEQ Secretary shall require a facility responsible for the discharge of industrial waste that includes per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including the chemical known as “GenX,” into the air, groundwater, surface water, or onto the land that results in contamination of a private drinking water well to establish permanent replacement water supplies for affected parties. “Contamination” means an exceedance of a standard established by states Environmental Management Commission for groundwater, surface water or air quality, or a US EPA exceedance of a health advisory standard. Household, businesses, schools or public buildings with wells would qualify. Connections to public water supplies are preferred. If DEQ says that is cost-prohibitive, filtration systems will be required. Polluters maintain systems. DEQ response: Language is unnecessary because DEQ has already directed Chemours to provide alternative water supplies to people with well water contaminated by PFAS.
PFAS Recovery Fund : $2,000,000 for grants-in-aid to local governments to connect households with contamination from the discharge of industrial waste that includes per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to public water supplies pursuant to an order issued under G.S. 143-215.2A.
Cape Fear Public Utility Authority:
Provides a $450,000 grant-in-aid specifically to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority in Wilmington, where GENX contamination was first detected in drinking water, for sampling, testing and treatment costs related to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Authority must test the effectiveness of ion exchange and activated carbon technologies for treatment of PFAS, including GenX. In so doing, the Authority shall install temporary ion exchange and carbon treatment systems suitable to treat water to determine which is most effective.
UNC-Chapel Hill Collabotory Leads PFAS Sampling: The budget instructs the UNC system Board of Governors to give the collaboratory $5,013,000 to identify faculty expertise, technology and instrumentation, including mass spectrometers, located on NC university and college campuses. Collaboratory will coordinate campus faculties to conduct nontargeted analysis for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including GenX, at public water supply surface water intakes and public water supply wells. Results due by 2019. The collaboratory was created by the GOP-led legislators in 2016 to leverage UNC system expertise to help communities solve practical problems. DEQ leaders released a memo before the budget passed opposing the assignment of monitoring traditionally performed by the agency to the UNC entity. “The regulatory process is fundamentally rooted in law, and data collection by staff and students that could be challenged in legal proceedings could jeopardize DEQ’s ability to enforce the law… It will require another layer of coordination to align the data gathered by the universities with the regulatory requirements of the Department. This inefficiency is not an effective use of tax dollars and will slow down the process of holding violators accountable,” the memo read.
Redirects $1,300,000 DEQ funding: The money had been appropriated for a failed project to use chemicals to treat water in Jordan and Falls lakes rather than reduce nutrient pollution that originates upstream. Money instead will be used for temporary staff to support of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) water quality sampling and analysis. It includes $537,000 for DEQ to buy a triple-quadrupole mass spectrometer, an instrument able to detectPFAS chemicals; $200,000 for water-discharge permitting backlogs; $232,950 for air sampling and analysis of atmospheric deposition of PFAS; and $279,050 for PFAS sampling in groundwater wells, soil, and sediments. DEQ officials and environmentalists had supported sampling that would look for a wide vareity of emerging contaminations in this state, including 1,4 dioxane. A. Preston Howard, president of the N.C. Manufacturers Alliance, opposed that.
Data management: Orders the NC Policy Collaboratory to identify and find data relevant to environmental monitoring and natural resource management. Study creating a central database to be hosted at UNC system. Provide the proposal by March 2018 to relevant NCGA committee chairs.
Water/ Waste Infrastructure Water/ Waste Infrastructure
Clean Water State Revolving Fund: Additional $1,000,000 for the required state match to get some $5 million in additional federal funds. This program provides low-interest loans to local governments to construct wastewater facilities.
Mercury switch program extension: 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.
Drinking Water State Revolving Fund:
$2,700,000 more for state match to draw some $14 million in federal funds. Program gives low-interest loans to local governments to finance the costs of infrastructure necessary to achieve or maintain compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
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.”
Nutrient management: 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. Nutrient Management: Bill delays deadline for recommendations to reduce nutrient levels in Jordan Lake from 2018 to 2019 and for Falls Lake from 2020 to 2021. The process to start new rules for the lakes must now occur by 2020 for Jordan Lake and 2024 for Falls Lake. “Necessary with substantive public interest.” Increased nutrients in this state’s waters result from agricultural run off, human sewage contamination and other upstream pollution.
Sewer and wastewater: For 2017-2018, allocates $1,000,000 for grants to improve water and sewer infrastructure to expand function, make repairs and protect water quality. Appropriates $3,000,000 for the Johnston County Research and Training Zone Association for a regional wastewater project. Requires the Association to submit an annual report on expenditures.
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.
Control of VW fraud money Control of VW fraud money
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. VW Fraud Settlement Dollars: Bill forbids governor or any party the governor appoints from spending of an expected $92 million North Carolina share of a fraud settlement with automaker Volkswagen. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in April lost a Superior Court lawsuit stating that he, not legislators, should control how that the money is used in the state. Cooper is appealing the decision. Rep. Chuck McGrady, in his newsletter about the budget, said this about the settlement language in the budget: “It has been suggested that the wording of that provision could put at risk those funds coming to North Carolina. The issue needs to be further researched,” McGrady said.
Earmarks: From DEQ water and sewer infrastructure grants: Earmarks: From DEQ water and sewer infrastructure grants:
Total: $370,000 Total: $4,903,000
Provides $40,000 in one-time money for water infrastructure projects in the Town of Four Oaks. District represented by Rep. L Strickland, Sen. B Jackson Provides $1 million grant to the City of Eden “for expansion of municipal water lines for future industrial customers.” District represented by Rep. B Jones, Sen. P Berger
Provides $80,000 in one-time money for water infrastructure projects in the Town of Benson. District represented by Rep. L Strickland, Sen. R Rabin Provides $40,000 grant to the City of Kannapolis “for municipal water line repairs.” District represented by Rep. L Johnson, Sen. P Newton
Provides $125,000 in one-time money for water infrastructure projects in the Town of Taylorsville. District represented by Rep. L Zachary, Sen. A Wells Provides $52,000 grant to Davidson County “for the Fort York septic system,” presumably a septic tank system near the historic site. District represented by Rep. L Potts, Rep. S Watford, Sen. C Dunn
Provides $100,000 in one-time money to Davidson County for Wil-Cox Bridge and Sewer Expansion. District represented by Reps. S Watford, L Potts, Sen. C Dunn, Provides $500,000 grant to Harnett County to construct a sewer “along the US 421 corridor between Lillington and Erwin.” District represented by Rep. D Lewis, Rep. J Sauls, Sen. R Rabin
Provides $500,000 grant to the South Granville Water and Sewer Authority — no specified purpose. District represented by Rep. L Yarborough and Sen. F McKissick, Jr.
Provides $85,000 grant to the Town of Beulaville “for water and sewer infrastructure and paving.” District represented by Rep. J Dixon and Sen. B Jackson
Provides $25,000 grant to the Town of Lake Waccamaw “to purchase a new pump for the septic system.” District represented by Rep. B Jones and Sen. DE Britt, Jr.
Provides $125,000 grant to the Town of White Lake “for water treatment projects.” District represented by Rep. W Brisson and Sen. B Rabon
Provides $201,000 to the Town of Richlands for a sewer line replacement project. District represented by Rep. D Hall, Sen. H Brown
Provides $1,000,000 to the Town of Mount Airy for a water and sewer line extension project. District represented by Rep. S Stevenson, Sen. S Randleman
Provides $1,125,000 to the town of Bath for a sewer system repair project. District represented by Rep. B Boswell, Sen. B Cook
Provides $250,000 to the Town of Trenton for assistance with a water and sewer project. District represented by Rep. P McElraft, Sen. H Brown
Net Appropriation: $77,012,714 Net Appropriation: $95,647,490

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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...