The Latest: North Carolina Senate panel agrees to GenX bill
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on the North Carolina General Assembly returning to Raleigh to take action on legislation (all times local):
A Senate committee has approved legislation described by supporters as the next step in studying largely unregulated chemicals found in North Carolina rivers.
The chamber’s environmental panel voted Wednesday evening for the measure focusing on emerging contaminants. These chemicals have gotten attention after the disclosure of GenX in the Cape Fear River, the chief water source for Wilmington. The bill directs the state Department of Environmental Quality to examine its water pollution permitting program and report findings to legislators. It also sets up a process with high-tech equipment on University of North Carolina system campuses to test for contaminants could help regulators if needed.
There’s $2.4 million for DEQ to carry out the law. But Democrats on the committee complained there wasn’t money designed to help the department address a backlog in permitting and testing. The measure next goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senate Republicans have introduced a measure that seeks to boost research on a little-studied chemical that has worried people who get their water from a North Carolina river where it’s been found.
The proposal over the chemical GenX goes before a Senate committee late Wednesday. It would provide money to the state Department of Environmental Quality and a UNC-Chapel Hill program to help regulators set pollution levels to assure no harm to the public and test for water pollutants.
Four weeks ago, Senate leader Phil Berger suggested more laws addressing GenX and water quality improvements wouldn’t be addressed by his chamber until the spring. Senators went home last month without debating a measure approved by the House involving GenX and other unregulated contaminants.
A Bladen County chemical plant discharged GenX into the Cape Fear River for years until several months ago. The Cape Fear River is Wilmington’s primary water supply.
North Carolina lawmakers will soon return to work after keeping the General Assembly session in a holding pattern for weeks while Republicans negotiated some bills and awaited court rulings.
The Senate and House have floor meetings Wednesday, and a spokeswoman for Senate leader Phil Berger says senators could vote on legislation. A Senate committee scheduled confirmation meetings for some of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s appointees. House and Senate Republicans have said other floor votes could occur at least Thursday and Friday.
The uncertainty stems largely from court decisions affecting judicial primaries and redistricting. The U.S. Supreme Court late Tuesday ruled on General Assembly boundaries approved by a three-judge panel.
The last floor votes occurred Jan. 10. Lawmakers have held perfunctory sessions every few days to keep the work session going.