House Bill 56 is a bad one for Beaufort County

Published 2:58 pm Friday, August 18, 2017

To the Editor,

One of the blessings of being retired is I have time to act on things that make me “mad,” which I did not have time for when I had a family and career. N.C. House Bill 56 is a bad bill for Beaufort County for anyone who believes the Pamlico River is important. It is to be passed either in a special committee soon, or the next session, unless it is stopped. Most folks remain in the dark about such back-room activities.

I have begun learning about laws the state legislature is ramming through like House Bill 56. It has a provision in which a mining company with a permit can apply — if they choose — for a blank bond to cover all their mining operations in the state; the bond shall not exceed $1 million. As you can imagine, this would never be enough to cover cleanup/reclamation should a mining company walk away or should there be problems. Also, the bill has an amendment regarding mining permits: currently, a mining permit is good for 10 years; with the new bill one permit would last the life of the site if the company so chooses.

So, locally, if Martin Marietta Materials Inc. plans for a rock quarry that will dump 12 million gallons of water a day into a tributary stream of Blounts Creek should turn out to have a recordable, bad effect on the estuary (which is a natural fish nursery), and beyond in the river, or if rules about protection of water resources should become more stringent, then residents would have no right to challenge reissuance of MMM’s permit in the future. Local residents welcome new businesses — for example, they welcome the many jobs the phosphate mine in Aurora has brought. We are not against mining, but this rock quarry will produce few jobs, will have negligible benefit for use, and there has been a simple, official recommended alternative for MMM’s dumping of wastewater that has been “on the table” since the beginning.

The point is that residents need to have reasonable laws in place, reasonable checks and balances for how a business can operate to protect residents. Residents need the right to petition regarding development they feel is, or would be, harmful. I attended the hearings and the court testimonies concerning this matter. I was showed and disgusted by how this permit was rubber-stamped and protected. Another court date is coming. I will be present, God willing.

Billie Mallison