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Excess regulation worries Thompson

Tom Thompson, Beaufort County’s economic developer and chairman of NC-20, warned the Beaufort County Republican Club of the dangers of efforts by some in state government to impose excessive regulations on the East. (WDN Photo/Betty Mitchell Gray)

Beaufort County’s economic development director said people throughout eastern North Carolina need to be vigilant against efforts by some leaders in state and federal government who want to impose excessive regulations on the costal region.

“We need to be diligent in eastern North Carolina,” said Tom Thompson. “There are a lot of people out there who don’t think we should grow.”

Thompson, who also serves as chairman of NC-20, a nonprofit corporation that represents the economic development interests of the 20 counties covered by the Coastal Area Management Act, was the keynote speaker Thursday at the Beaufort County Republican Club.

While there are other factors that hinder growth in the region, excessive government regulations pose some of the greatest dangers to the eastern North Carolina economy, he told the group.

Beaufort County Commissioner Al Klemm echoed Thompson’s concerns.

“The power in the east has diminished quite a bit,” Klemm said while introducing Thompson to the group. “Our voice has become diminished.”

Thompson said he is not opposed to all regulations that are aimed at protecting the environment, just those that excessively penalize eastern North Carolina.

Examples of these, he said, include past efforts by environmental regulators to tighten regulations governing storm water runoff and insurance rules and rates that unfairly penalize the coast.

He noted that NC-20 worked to successfully beat back these efforts.

But, he said, the group continues its work combating recent efforts by the state’s Coastal Resources Commission and its science panel to mandate land use planning based on a very aggressive prediction of a future sea level rise.

Members of the science panel believe sea levels will rise at an alarming rate because of global warming and the resultant melting of polar ice caps, Thompson told the group.

And as a result, state agencies had initially advised county land use planners and emergency management coordinators to base their decisions on a predicted 39-inch sea level rise.

That rise would place many coastal communities under water, he said, and lead to decisions that would ultimately hurt the region’s economic development.

“The economic consequences of a 39-inch sea level rise are enormous,” he said.

Thompson said NC-20 has worked with scientists to dispute the predictions, partly because those predictions could scare away prospective industries and hamper economic development.

Thompson said recent concerns about global warming and the resulting melting of the polar ice caps and sea level rise are “a bunch of hooey” and said any rise in global temperatures is the result of a “natural evolution” of a cycle of global warming and cooling.

Several Republican candidates for election to the county board and state legislature were also present and given the opportunity to speak.