Polluters could still write environmental rules under House bill

For immediate release

Raleigh, NC—Developers, polluters, and other special interests would be allowed to write the environmental rules that are supposed to keep them in check, according to the latest version of sweeping legislation that fires all 90 members of the state’s commissions governing air quality, water quality, wildlife management, and coastal protection.

The bill, which won approval today by the full House, is the latest version of controversial legislation that originated in the Senate in January.

Under the legislation, all members of the state’s primary environmental rule-making panel, the Environmental Management Commission, would be fired June 30.  A majority of the newly appointed members would be allowed to represent developers, polluters, and other special interests.

“When it comes to basic protections for our air and water,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, state director for Environment North Carolina, “why would we let the fox guard the hen house?”

The Environmental Management Commission has played a critical role in crafting or enforcing high-profile environmental laws over the years, including the 2002 clean smokestacks law that cut power plant pollution by more than 70%, the 2008 law that protects coastal wetlands, and recent rules to protect Jordan Lake and Falls Lake.

Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) offered an amendment to ensure a majority of EMC members didn’t represent special interests, but it failed 43 to 68.

Despite its treatment of the Environmental Management Commission, the house-passed legislation includes improvements over earlier versions.  A majority of the members on the Coastal Resources Commission are prohibited from profiting from or otherwise representing the industries regulated by that commission.   The Utilities Commission, which makes critical decisions about electricity rates and clean power generation, was left in tact.