RALEIGH — Movement on a controversial landfill bill passed by the Senate has slowed considerably in the House because of concerns raised by the McCrory Administration.
Senate Bill 328, the Solid Waste Management Reform Act of 2013, makes sharp reductions in landfill buffer requirements and environmental safeguards, increases the duration of landfill permits from 10 to 30 years and relaxes rules that its opponents say will reopen the state to so-called mega-landfills for out-of-state garbage that were stopped by a 2006 moratorium and tough, new law in 2007.
Although the governor’s office has yet to issue a policy statement on the bill, Gov. Pat McCrory confirmed in an interview in late June that he has concerns about it, telling the Greensboro News and Record that he has doubts the bill will make it through the legislature and expressing worry that a proposed super landfill in Camden County could start up under the bill despite local objections.
The issue is politically sensitive for McCrory. In his first run for the governor’s office in 2008, he was criticized after saying late in the campaign he would have vetoed the 2007 legislation. Based on that then-Gov. Beverly Perdue’s campaign leveled a withering attack on McCrory claiming he wanted to turn the state into a dumping ground for the Northeast, a charge McCrory strongly denied.
Mary McLean Asbill, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has challenged the mega-landfills, said whatever the reason, it’s clear the bill has stalled for now. She said the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources appears to be backtracking from its initial support for the legislation.
“It definitely seems like the governor’s office is having DENR ask more questions and do more research,” she said.
Drew Elliot, a department spokesman, said officials are not comfortable with the bill as originally introduced and are working to change it.
Senate sponsors amended the bill during committee hearings in late June, removing a provision that would allow for landfills to pile waste 300 feet high — 50 feet higher than the current requirement. But the bill still contains controversial measures that would eliminate some wetlands requirements and greatly reduce buffers for natural resources, state parks and gamelands to 1,500.
Opponents says the proposed law would once again open North Carolina to large landfills for out-of-state garbage. Photo: Nicholas School for the Environment, Duke University
“We’re working with General Assembly members to address some environmental concerns,” he said. “It’s a matter of compromise. We’re still working through that. We’re not at a point where we can unequivocally say we are for it or opposed to it.”
Brooks Rainey, an attorney with the law center who is also working on the landfill issue, said how the bill might affect Camden County is another key hitch in the legislation. The county had granted a 30-year permit to Waste Industries for the Black Bear landfill project. Unlike other applicants for landfills affected by the 2007 law, the company opted not to take a settlement offer from the state. It lost a subsequent court challenge to the new regulations.
Rainey said if the new landfill bill passes it could allow for the Camden County landfill to be built despite indications by the county that it doesn’t support the project and objections raised by the nearby city of Chesapeake, Va., and the Navy, which has a facility near a major transportation corridor for the Black Bear site.
“Camden no longer wants it,” Rainey said. “They now have a new, green industrial park that they are counting on to boost their economy.”
She said the Navy is also seeking changes to the bill, to give it some input in the permitting process.
The bill is slated to be heard by the House Environment Committee, but a hearing on it has not been scheduled.
The governor’s office and Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, House Environment co-chair, did not respond to requests for comments.