Reprinted from the Outer Banks Sentinel
NAGS HEAD — Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement Sept. 21 that he would veto House Bill 56 spares the Outer Banks’ 8-year-old plastic bag ban that the legislature marked for repeal when it passed the measure in August. But for how long?
The Democratic governor’s decision was welcomed by many in Dare County, where the effort to repeal the bag ban had spawned official resolutions, lobbying campaigns and calls for a referendum as a way of registering public opposition to the repeal.
“The town definitely did not want to see the removal of the bag ban,” Nags Head Mayor Bob Edwards said, applauding the governor’s decision. “It’s bad for our environment, our ocean life, and is a general nuisance.”
Outer Banks Surfrider Foundation official Ivy Ingram said, “Dare County citizens and local leaders have been very vocal about supporting the current ban in place and, while the legislature ignored us, it’s nice to be heard in Raleigh.”
Given the Republican control of the General Assembly, Cooper’s veto could be overridden. Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, and Rep. Beverly Boswell, R-Dare, both representing Dare County in the General Assembly and two key movers behind the bag ban repeal, have voiced opposition to the governor’s veto.
The bag ban repeal was inserted into HB 56 with a laundry list of other environmental regulations, particularly one that would provide further funding for studies on the situation regarding GenX, the unregulated chemical found in the Cape Fear River and Wilmington water systems.
In explaining his veto, Cooper argued that HB 56 failed to adequately address drinking water safety, adding that “it provides no resources to the state agencies charged with protecting drinking water and preventing illegal chemicals from being discharged into our rivers.” He also addressed the bag issue, saying that HB 56 “repeals a local plastic bag ban supported by local governments and businesses that was passed to protect the environment.”
In their responses, Cook and Boswell focused on other components of HB 56, but said nothing about the bag ban repeal.
Boswell said she was “extremely disappointed” with the veto, noting that the legislation “provides nearly a half-million dollars to begin dealing with the pollutant GenX, which was discharged earlier this year in the Cape Fear River.” She also said the bill establishes a Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund, and accused the governor of “placing politics ahead of public safety.”
Cook said, “Gov. Cooper needs to focus less on growing the government bureaucracy that has thus far failed to resolve this crisis – and move towards seeking solutions that ensure clean, safe drinking water. Without hesitation, I encourage my Senate colleagues to override his veto.”
In Dare County, the bag ban repeal debate has pitted many local elected officials and residents against Cook and Boswell, who have argued the ban was not effective, and that the bigger problem of littering is what needs to be addressed.
At the Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting on Sept. 5, residents denounced the ban’s repeal. A common theme was that the county’s legislators had ignored the community’s views on the issue.
“It’s a shame that our representatives in Raleigh, specifically Beverly Boswell and Bill Cook, ignored the wishes of their constituency here in Dare County and instead deferred to corporate lobbyists,” Kitty Hawk resident Bob Healy said, echoing the sentiments of others at the meeting.
This story is provided courtesy of the Outer Banks Sentinel, a weekly Dare County newspaper that is published in print every Wednesday and headquartered at 2910 South Croatan Highway, Nags Head. Aside from the print paper, the Sentinel also produces a continually updated digital version at www.obsentinel.com.