On Thursday, legislative leaders responded to Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement that he will veto a bill that would have provided local funding to combat the GenX crisis in the Cape Fear River region.
Cooper vetoed the regulatory reform bill on Thursday because it did not give money to the state as he had requested but instead sent the money directly to the local utilities that are tasked with ensuring that the Cape Fear Region has access to clean and safe drinking water.
In his veto message Cooper said, “Clean water is critical for our health and our economy and this legislation fails to appropriate any needed funds to the departments in state government charged with setting standards and enforcing laws to prevent illegal chemical discharges into rivers used for drinking water.”
The legislation would have provided $435,000 directly to the area to study the water and upgrade water treatment facilities in the area.
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington would have received $250,000 to quantify the amount of GenX in the Cape Fear River and how long it will take the GenX to degrade in the water.
The remaining $185,000 would have gone to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and other local public utilities to develop treatment technologies to remove GenX from the water supply and to ensure that the treatment is working through ongoing monitoring.
The outlay was to be the first of more funding to follow but Cooper was critical of the bodies the funding was going to and the amount, having requested $2.58 million for state agencies to study the GenX crisis.
The legislature was loath to give the state the money due to questions about the state’s handling of the crisis leading up to the legislation.
The legislation also would have begun the formation of an electronic filing database to speed up water quality permitting in the state by utilizing an online, searchable database where the public and local officials can find information on permits that have already been approved.
The bill also repealed a 2009 partial plastic bag ban for three coastal counties, a goal of Republicans for years.
Senate Leader Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) responded to Cooper’s veto on Thursday saying, “Shame on Gov. Cooper for vetoing a local solution, developed by this region’s local representatives, to immediately improve water quality for their constituents, neighbors and own families – simply because it did not achieve his preferred objective of growing a bureaucracy that has thus far failed to resolve this crisis. I encourage my Senate colleagues to swiftly override his veto.”
Joining Berger from the Senate was Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) who represents the area affected by the GenX crisis.
“I am troubled that the governor would place politics ahead of public safety, and prioritize bureaucracy over results,” Lee said. “He is now on record for rejecting the only proposal that will actually help clean our drinking water in the lower Cape Fear region.”
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) also had words for Cooper on his decision to veto the bill.
“It defies belief that Gov. Cooper is still making the false claim that GenX contamination is related to recent state budgets, and more shocking that he would reject emergency funds intended to protect the citizens of the Cape Fear region to continue this irrelevant assertion,” Moore said. “The GenX crisis is decades in the making due to the failure of state agencies – spanning multiple, bipartisan administrations back to the 1980s – to properly regulate clean water resources for North Carolina. I urge my General Assembly colleagues to override the governor’s veto as soon as possible and provide additional resources directly to local utilities working to provide clean water for Southeastern North Carolina.”
Both chambers will look to address veto override votes on this and other bills that Cooper has vetoed so far, 12 since taking office in January.