Election Opinion (N.C. Senate): Peterson On Addressing GenX

By Harper Peterson, posted Oct 25, 2018
Harper Peterson
Editor’s note: As Election Day nears, the Greater Wilmington Business Journal is inviting candidates in many of the local races to share their opinions on specific issues.
Today’s focus is the race for the state Senate’s District 9 seat, which covers New Hanover County.
Both candidates – Democrat Harper Peterson and his Republican challenger, Sen. Michael Lee – answered the following question. To read Lee’s column, click here.

If elected, how would you address water quality, including about GenX, from the legislature?

Michael Lee’s “Clean Water Act,” Senate Bill 724 is no more than a cover for he and his fellow legislators that have been derelict in their responsibility to protect the public’s health and safety.

His claims of being a “Champion of Clean Water” are fraudulent and his lack of action over the past 18 months are apparent to all who have followed the GenX crisis.
First my comments with regard to Mr. Lee’s GenX legislation.
Issue #1:
“A lobbying group that includes GenX manufacturer Chemours, asked for three changes to legislation targeting the company’s chemical emissions, and it got all three  …”
  1. do NOT test water supplies for pharmaceuticals and a wide array of chemicals called emerging contaminants
  2. test ONLY on GenX and related chemicals (PFAS) that have captured most of the public attention...
  3. provide a “DIFFERENT” spectrometer than the one requested by the Department of Environmental Quality-one that ONLY identifies what you tell it to look for, not one that can identify a wider spectrum of compounds.
Preston Howard, lobbyist and president of North Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, warned legislators and Senator Lee that identifying pharmaceuticals and “many other chemicals … and consumer products … would only “open a Pandora’s Box” … and create similar controversies about what’s in our drinking water.
Sadly, one more example of how some industries do not consider the public health in their priorities
The public has a right to know what’s in their drinking water!
The paradigm has to change at all levels of our government: Public health before corporate profit!
Issue #2:
SB 742 claims to give the Governor the power to shut down Chemours, when in reality it “could make it difficult to determine what the agency’s [DEQ’s] authority is while ‘impeding’ actions against Chemours.” StarNews
Senator Lee’s claim sounds good, but the State already has the power. Mr. Lee only wants to complicate the process.
Duke University law professor Ryke Longest commented in The Fayetteville Observer in May that Senator Lee’s bill “makes existing enforcement against Chemours plant harder, allocates millions of dollars to agencies with no enforcement authority and … creates a whole new set of criteria which must be proved by DEQ …, disrupting existing cases and imposing new proof requirements on the agency.” [Editor’s note: Longest’s comments were made in his opinion column]
Issue #3:
SB 742 appropriates $5 million to the N.C. Policy Collaboratory at UNC-CH to coordinate testing for emerging contaminants across the state.
While an impressive group of scientists and academics, they have no regulatory or enforcement authority. More bureaucracy.
Dollars are desperately needed in the agencies that are responsible for study, regulation and enforcement – DEQ and DHHS – but this legislation sends funding to the wrong place that confuse and delay any meaningful action.
What GenX Legislation I Would Propose:
  1. Appropriate the necessary funding for DEQ and DHHS to be fully operational to perform their responsibilities. This includes the necessary staffing for research, permitting, monitoring, enforcement that has been systematically defunded by this legislature over the past 8 years;
  2. Appropriate funding for state-of-the-art scientific equipment, including the “high resolution mass spectrometer” that was substituted in SB 724 for a less desirable and comprehensive model;
  3. Require all industries to fully disclose, in their environmental permits all chemicals and compounds discharged into the air or water;
  4. Empower DEQ to immediately suspend the discharge permits of industries that allow unregulated toxic pollutants to enter the air or water;
  5. Establish conditions whereby the Governor and DEQ Secretary can “declare an emergency” where the discharge of contaminants can be effectively reduced or discontinued if the public health and safety is in imminent danger;
  6. Companies guilty of illegal discharges be required to provide immediate and long-term treatment solutions and related costs. Example: CFPUA has already spent $2 million in costs responding to the GenX crisis and is proposing a $46 million filtration upgrade that customers will pay for, not Chemours. The public should not bear the cost;
  7. Require discharge violators to pay all expenses related to the cleanup costs;
  8. Require discharge violators to be responsible for a “health monitoring program” for residents who could suffer health impacts from exposure; and
  9. Legislation to repeal “The Hardison Amendment” which prohibits state legislators or agencies from passing stricter standards than those established by the EPA.
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