Environment North Carolina
Starting with the budget, in 2011 lawmakers passed a slew of damaging changes to the laws that protect our air, water, and open spaces. Environment North Carolina and its allies succeeded in stalling one of the worst of these measures: Senate Bill 709, which promotes drilling off the Outer Banks and the rest of the state’s beaches along with onshore “fracking” near the Deep River. Yet scores of other anti-environmental bills have become law, including those that chip away at North Carolina’s clean energy standard, push back a key deadline in the Jordan Lake clean-up plan, require polluters to pay less to clean up leaking toxic chemicals, and remove protections for a unspoiled Western North Carolina trout stream. Over the objections of the governor, lawmakers adopted legislation preventing certain new environmental rules, and initiating the repeal of others. They overrode her veto of a budget that slashes conservation funding and prevents the protection of green spaces next to the Blue Ridge Parkway and other key tracts of land around the state. The scorecard tracks ten contested votes in the House and ten in the Senate on these measures, and paints a grim picture of support for environmental protection from the General Assembly. There were a few important signs of progress not reflected in the scorecard. The General Assembly unanimously approved legislation to enact new standards to make new homes and businesses more energy-efficient. And the House leadership deserves credit for quelling some of the worst ideas of the legislative session, such as gutting the state’s air toxics protection program, removing protections for the Neuse and Tar Pamlico Rivers, and eliminating the state’s renewable energy standard altogether.