Lawmakers in the N.C. House of Representatives gave final approval to a bill that makes several changes to the state’s environmental rules Thursday morning.
The House bill, passed in a 105-12 vote, is a milder version of a Senate bill that made a number of harsh changes to environmental laws.
“We appreciate the thoughtful and reasoned consideration that the House gave to this bill as it came over from the Senate,” said Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, the communications director for the NC Sierra Club. “It is much improved.”
But the House bill still removes protections from isolated wetlands, prevents local governments from regulating fertilizer and eliminates air quality reporting requirements.
The bill expands the area of wetlands developers would have to mitigate to equal to or more than 1 acre on wetlands east of Interstate 95, and equal to or more than 1/3 of an acre west of I-95.
“The dirt is different east and west of I-95,” said Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a sponsor of the bill, in a House Environment Committee Wednesday. “So the wetlands are different on each side.”
Currently the regulations are set at 1/3 of an acre east, and 1/10 of an acre west of I-95, but the Environmental Review Commission felt these regulations were too strict and recommended relaxing them last year.
Isolated wetlands are important for groundwater control as they are not connected to streams, absorb water and don’t contribute to flooding. They also serve as habitats for several rare species in North Carolina.
The bill also prohibits local governments from regulating the sale of potent fertilizers that pollute waters with downstream runoff.