Bill filed in N.C. House to halt new stormwater rules

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, May 20, 2008

By Staff
Senate bill to follow by mid-week
Staff Writer
The House version of a bill to stop the implementation of new stormwater rules was introduced Thursday, and the Senate version is expected to be filed at the General Assembly by mid-week, according to Joe McClees, a lobbyist hired by 12 eastern North Carolina counties to get the bills introduced.
Ironically, one of the members of the state House who introduced the bill is not from a coastal county that stands to be affected by the new rules if they go into effect Aug. 1. State Rep. Pryor Gibson, a Democrat representing Anson and Union counties southeast of Charlotte, co-sponsored the bill with Rep. William Wainwright, a Democrat representing Craven and Lenoir Counties, neither of which are members of the 12-county group.
On the opening day of the General Assembly May 13, McClees and representatives of at least seven of the 12 counties he is lobbying for showed up at the Legislature to put faces on their concerns with the new rules. When asked which legislators he was targeting with his message that the rules are flawed, McClees said, “all of them.” It was his intent to have representatives of non-coastal counties introduce the bill, he said then. The bill, filed as H2138, is titled “an act to disapprove a rule to manage stormwater in coastal counties.”
The act will effectively halt the implementation if the new rules if passed by both the house and Senate. The Senate version of the bill will be nearly identical to its House counterpart, McClees said.
The proposed rule changes in question tighten triggers that require stormwater permits and mitigation measures for new and old developments. Managers of 12 coastal counties contend the new rules would have adverse economic impacts by hindering development on an already-struggling region. Though the rules are more restrictive for areas within a half-mile of shellfish waters, they tighten restrictions to a lesser degree in all areas of counties under the Coastal Area Management Act.
State legislators are not responsible for the proposal of new stormwater regulations for eastern North Carolina, but if they do not act within the first 30 days of the short session of the Legislature that began May 13, those rules will go into effect.
The rules are based on a 2005 study by the N.C. Division of Water Quality that found the current restrictions on stormwater mitigation were not effective in preventing the closure of shellfish waters caused by pollution from runoff. McClees and representatives of the 12 inland-coastal counties feel the findings of that study are inaccurate. They also contend that the cost of the new rules to developers and property owners in the 12 counties has not been adequately addressed.
Since bringing the group’s concerns to the General Assembly last week, McClees said legislators have received his message well.
McClees said the bills will be sent to committee and will probably be heard after about a week. He expects amendments to the bills, but said “we’re a long way from that happening.”
For updated information on the progression of the bills through the General Assembly and coverage of committee meetings on the bills, see future issues of the Washington Daily News.