Sunday, August 14, 2022

Senate leader Phil Berger says Ted Davis’ GenX bill ‘does nothing’

Senate leader instead points to his chamber's solution --- a bill filed earlier in the year by Senator Michael Lee.

RALEIGH — Senate leader Phil Berger had strong words for the GenX bill sponsored by fellow Republican Ted Davis and passed by the House yesterday. Berger said the bill “does nothing to prevent GenX from going into the water supply,” while putting a financial burden on taxpayers that should be carried by polluting companies.

Related: GenX legislation falls short of Cooper’s funding request, explores protecting CFPUA from lawsuits

House Bill 189, created in the Committee for North Carolina River Quality, chaired by Representative Davis, was drafted last week and quickly made its way to the house floor. The bill includes several provisions:

  • Directs the Department of Health and Human Services to consult with the Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board
  • Directs the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to study the state’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
  • Directs the DEQ to coordinate and share water quality data with the following state’s respective DEQs: Georgia, South Carolina, Tennesse, Virginia and West Virginia.
  • Directs the DEQ to study statutory requirements for utilities to notify the public of discharges
  • Directs UNC School of Government to study the liability of water utilities
  • Appropriates $1.2 million in funding to address GenX

Berger’s office released a statement shortly after the bill passed in the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 10.

“What the House passed today unfortunately does nothing to prevent GenX from going into the water supply. It leaves North Carolina taxpayers holding the bag for expenditures that should be paid for by the company responsible for the pollution, fails to give DEQ authority to do anything they can’t already do, and authorizes the purchase of expensive equipment that the state can already access for free,” Berger’s statement read in part.

Berger argued that Senate Republicans had already taken legislative action, referring to the plan put forward by State Senator Michael Lee in October of last year. Lee presented his plan, which would implicitly use funding denied to Governor Cooper for the DEQ, and instead fund testing at CFPUA and research at UNCW, to the General Assembly’s Environmental Review Committee (ERC). Davis, who serves as an advisory member of the ERC, approved of Lee’s plan at the time.

“What the House passed today unfortunately does nothing to prevent GenX from going into the water supply. It leaves North Carolina taxpayers holding the bag for expenditures that should be paid for by the company responsible for the pollution …”

Berger argued that Lee’s plan negated the need for Davis’s bill.

“Senate Republicans have already shown we are serious about finding real solutions that will actually improve water quality in the Cape Fear River and hold violators accountable for dumping GenX into the region’s water supply. That’s why several months ago we passed legislation to immediately and directly address the problem of GenX contamination in the lower Cape Fear region. We provided funding to local public utilities to begin removing GenX from public water supplies. And we commissioned studies to quantify the amount of GenX in the Cape Fear River and determine the impact it could have on public health and safety. The first round of data is due this spring,” Berger wrote.

Berger said the senate would take “meaningful action” in this year’s short session.


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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