Statement on HB 600 and SB 678
Environmental Justice continues to be a challenge in North Carolina. We are on the cusp of history as it is the 50th anniversary of Warren County, the birthplace of the Environmental Justice movement. We still do not have justice in our communities as they are still burdened due to strategic practices, like HB 600 and SB 678, that still play a pivotal role in why communities are continually plagued with EJ issues.
House Bill 600 – Regulatory Reform Act
In September 2023, HB 600, the Regulatory Reform Act, was passed by both chambers. It weakens the power of the Department of Environmental Quality, which is tasked to protect our water and wetlands and to protect us from harmful pipeline projects. The bill undermines their authority to enforce the Clean Air Act and shortens the project review time of the agency from 12 months to 60 days, further reducing DEQ’s ability to evaluate the harmful impact of projects adequately. The bill also connects to the new Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate proposal, which proposes excavating Black and indigenous burial grounds to build the pipeline and the new application that will need to be reviewed. According to Grist, “MVP’s developers have amassed more than 300 violations of environmental laws, and — with the blessing of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC — have forced landowners along the pipeline to sell chunks of their property.” The MVP proposal has been denied three times due to its harmful nature, and this weakening via HB 600 could create a way for it to be passed. With the United Nations General Assembly, through Resolution 64/292 in July 2010, explicitly recognizing the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledging that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights, we believe this bill will continue to hinder equitable access to clean air and water for North Carolina communities.
Senate Bill 678
Regarding SB 678, the language regarding renaming “renewable energy” to “clean energy” would allow the fast-tracking of more nuclear energy into North Carolina. Nuclear is not 100% clean energy, as it creates a hazardous and radioactive waste by-product that must be safely stored. If not stored properly and adequately, it causes a public health concern. Radioactive waste is also generated while decommissioning and dismantling nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities, further leaving residents at risk of exposure. Proper vetting and planning that focuses on and prioritizes resident and environmental health should be facilitated before any more nuclear facilities are placed in North Carolina.
North Carolina faces ongoing environmental justice challenges, and the passage of harmful bills like HB600 and SB678 has the potential to exacerbate these issues. Vigilance, community involvement, and informed advocacy are crucial to addressing these concerns and ensuring equitable access to clean air and water for all North Carolinians.