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Cooper Proposes Funding Increase To Address Water, Air Pollution

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that he wants to address the problems of water and air pollution by increasing resources for the state’s environmental and health agencies.

Ahead of the release of his short session budget, Cooper announced that he will recommend $14.5 million to the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Human Services to be spent on new hires, new resources for data collection and sampling, and funding for facility upgrades.

Half the money will go toward DEQ to fund water contamination sampling to study toxic contaminants like GenX – a chemical compound that’s had little testing or regulation. GenX pollution was discovered in the Cape Fear River last year. The effect of GenX on North Carolina residents is currently unclear, but the chemical is related to a family of chemicals known to cause birth defects and cancer—according to reporting by the Raleigh News and Observer.

DEQ has taken strong action to hold Chemours – the company behind the GenX pollution—accountable, according to Cooper. He said DEQ did this “despite legislative cuts to the agency.”

Increasing funding in this area is a move legislators have been hesitant to make. The General Assembly failed to agree to fund an extra $2 million for the department in February.

Cooper said improving water and air quality, and understanding pollution, is a legislative priority.

“Protecting the water we drink and the air we breathe is critical, and my budget recommendations will give state agencies the tools they need to continue keeping North Carolina families healthy,” Cooper said. “Our administration has taken strong action to hold polluters accountable, but we need meaningful investments in water testing, permitting, and scientific analysis to protect our environment statewide.”

The General Assembly will consider Cooper’s budget recommendation when the short session begins May 16.