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NC Environmental Regulators Approve Of Regulatory Overhaul


North Carolina's environmental regulators now say they fully support a regulatory overhaul that Governor Pat McCrory signed recently. The regulators say lawmakers addressed their concerns in the final bill.

It started as a one-page bill on transporting gravel and ended up a 61-page bill that changed a variety of state regulations. Environmental groups nicknamed it the Polluter Protection Act. Governor McCrory's environmental department warned lawmakers about problems it would create.

"There was a large range of concerns that we had in that original letter," Assistant Secretary of the state Department of Environmental Quality Tom Reeder says. "And they were all addressed by the General Assembly in one way or another, and that's why we supported the bill at the end."

Reeder says sections that could've damaged coastal waters and resulted in numerous complaints about utility projects were changed to study provisions. That means the department will research them and report back to lawmakers next year. 

Environmental advocates say another section allows companies to get away with pollution as long as they catch it first. Reeder says that section is written so narrowly that few, if any, companies could use it.

"I even asked my division directors to give me one example of where somebody could have a violation that we would enforce that they could get immunity under that self-audit provision, and they couldn't provide me a single one," he says.

There are a few other provisions he and environmental advocates disagree on. For example, Reeder is OK with cutting the number of air quality monitors. He says North Carolina now meets federal air quality standards and will still have enough monitors to track that.