Reform act could repeal local legislation

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, or North Carolina General Assembly Senate Bill 612, has raised red flags with environmental organizations and local municipalities. The bill’s language prohibits local municipalities from passing environmental legislation that is more stringent than the state’s regulations pertaining to the same subject. 

Executive director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation Todd Miller said many local stormwater requirements would be jeopardized if the bill passes. 

“In the coastal stormwater efforts, many local governments have adopted management measures that deal with flooding issues they are facing from improper stormwater management as well as water quality issues,” Miller said. “I know the city of Wilmington has applied its rules to redevelopment and the state doesn’t do that, which is your one opportunity to make some progress and deal with existing pollution problems.”

Wrightsville Beach’s stormwater management plan, passed in the summer of 2007, could also come into question under SB612 because of the town’s minimum required Build Upon Area to treat stormwater runoff, said town manager Tim Owens. 

“The state says you don’t have to treat [stormwater runoff] until you get to a 10,000-square foot BUA and ours is basically 500 square feet so it would be a big difference,” he said. “I think the board made a conscious effort to improve water quality and go above and beyond what the state requires.”

Having a uniform set of environmental regulations for everything from stormwater management to water quality is one of the reasons why SB612’s primary sponsor, Senator Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, said businesses would appreciate the change. 

“North Carolina citizens and businesses deserve a regulatory system that provides peace of mind for environmental concerns while providing common sense, hassle free rules that contain no surprises for small and large businesses,” Cook stated in an email on May 7. “This bill simply attempts to clarify and simplify regulation of certain types such that they are less confusing and conflicting. Certainly, our North Carolina businesses will benefit from clear, fast and common sense regulation.”

Although Miller said the NCCF is not against reviewing processes to ensure that they are beneficial and efficient for everyone, he is concerned with the prospect of blanket environmental regulations without acknowledging unique local situations. 

“I think most savvy businesses know how to get in and figure out what the standards are, it wasn’t because of these environmental laws that we had a downturn in the economy,” he said. “The concept has been that local governments are more on the scene and know their needs; one size doesn’t necessarily fit all for the entire state. Particularly when you are dealing with local situations, it puts a handcuff on local governments’ abilities to address the problems citizens bring to them directly.”

As of Wednesday, May 8, SB612 was under review by the House Committee on Regulatory Reform after passing the senate on May 2. With a Republican majority in the General Assembly, Miller said he has been surprised at the recent trend of bills giving the state more power. 

“There seems to be a centralization of power rather than home rule, which, for this General Assembly, is an odd way to go,” Miller said. “There certainly is an appetite for regulatory reform.”


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