Recently, it came to my attention that several NC lawmakers have their sights set on weakening the NCDENR (North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and eliminating the excise tax that funds environmental programs such as the Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund. Obviously, this will have a detrimental effect on Environmental Consulting Companies, Analytical Laboratories, Equipment Contractors and Suppliers and of course our Environment. Several recent quotes from our elected officials are presented in the following paragraphs.
“What I perceive is a generalized attack on all parts of DENR,” said Joe Hackney of Chapel Hill, the House Democratic leader, who has longtime ties to the environmental movement. “There are some people who want to dismantle it and reduce it to little or nothing. There are others who want to neuter its regulatory side, which the public will not like. The public places a high value on clean water and clean air.” Hackney said DENR has done a good job of running the federal environmental programs that are delegated to the states. If the state programs are cut too much, the federal government will end up taking over the program, and people will have to go to the regional EPA office in Atlanta for permits. “That is not good for business in North Carolina,” Hackney said. “I just hope any review will be done thoughtfully and the governor will resist any unwise changes.”
- “I’d like to see DENR downsized,” said Sen. Don East, a Republican from Pilot Mountain and co-chairman of the budget committee that controls DENR’s purse strings. “I’d like to see them be a kinder, gentler agency. I’d like to see DENR be a help, not a hindrance to business and industry.” North Carolina’s environmental laws also are coming under scrutiny at hearings being held by legislature’s Joint Committee on Regulatory Reform. The first was Monday in Charlotte. Four others are scheduled on Mondays in April. “Of the many, many complaints I get from business and developers, home builders and land clearers, and landfill operators, 90 percent are about DENR and about the onerous regulations and unfriendly attitude,” East said. East predicted an effort to roll back some rules and regulations that are more stringent than required by the federal government.
- In her budget, Gov. Beverly Perdue took a solid whack at DENR programs herself, paring the budget from a base of $480 million to $407 million. But the GOP leadership’s budget target given to the appropriations committee that handles DENR’s budget cuts even deeper, to $323 million – a reduction of almost exactly one-third.
One indication is in the target that budget writers have been given. In her budget, Gov. Beverly Perdue took a solid whack at DENR programs herself, paring the budget from a base of $480 million to $407 million. But the GOP leadership’s budget target given to the appropriations committee that handles DENR’s budget cuts even deeper, to $323 million – a reduction of almost exactly one-third. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, who serves on the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources appropriations committee and represents Orange County agreed that the cuts are far too deep. She said House and Senate leaders are trying to figure out how far they can go in dismantling DENR. She said it’s likely to be done in pieces. Still, Kinnaird said, the state is going to see sweeping changes this year in how agriculture and the forestry industry are regulated. A bill has already been filed that would move DENR’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation to the Department of Agriculture, which is run by Republican Steve Troxler. Troxler recently testified in an appropriations hearing that he thought agriculture is far too regulated. While not as immediate as many on the right want, Kinnaird said, taking the agency apart piece by piece will have the same result in the long run.“DENR,” she said, “is a dead duck.”
The bill to eliminate the motor fuel excise tax, which was sponored by Senator Rouzer, is referenced below:
GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA SESSION 2011 S D SENATE DRS15024-MC-52A (02/09) Short Title: Suspend Motor Fuel Excise Tax With an Offset. (Public) Sponsors: Senator Rouzer.
Lawmakers have gone after licensing boards in Florida and California to mention a few in the name of tax savings. In reality no savings were to be gained by eliminating the boards. After swift action by professional associations (mostly Geological), the bills were eliminated. Even though personally I am not a Fan of the UST trustfund and I believe that things would get done a lot faster and better without it, getting rid of the NCDENR would only defer the regulatory task to EPA Region 4 in Atlanta. That would not be good for North Carolina or our Environment. If you feel the same way, let your Lawmakers know.
Brian E Chew Sr. P.G