• Public Hearing on Septage Management Rule Change

    Public Comment Period:  December 15, 2021 to February 14, 2022 Proposed Effective Date: Pending Legislative Review Submit Comments by e-mail to:  dwm.publiccomments@ncdenr.gov Link to the agency website: https://deq.nc.gov/permits-rules/rules-regulations/deq-proposed-rules/proposed-rules Please review the Notice and Proposed Rule Text and the Regulatory Impact Analysis. A Virtual Public Hearing has been scheduled via WebEx as follows: Date:  January 20, 2022 Time:  4:30 p.m. Location:  WebEx Event Meeting Link: https://ncdenrits.webex.com/ncdenrits/j.php?MTID=m8d8e13db4c07e1775d3a3094a7a544fa Event number: 2437 299 9427 Event password: 1234 To join by phone: Call +1-415-655-0003 US TOLL, enter access code


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  • PRESS RELEASE: DHHS Launches Low Income Household Water Assistance Program

    JANUARY 3, 2022 - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program will expand to include all low-income households needing assistance in paying their water bill. LIHWAP was created in December 2021 after the State of North Carolina was awarded more than $38 million in federal funds to establish a new water assistance program for households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, households with a current water/wastewater bill can begin applying for LIHWAP assistance if they meet the eligibility requirements, whether or not their water service has been disconnected. Households that have had their services disconnected or are in jeopardy of having their services disconnected can continue to apply. "Due to the pandemic and its impact on our economy, many households are struggling to maintain their water service," said Tara Myers, NCDHHS Deputy Secretary for Employment, Inclusion and Economic Stability. "LIHWAP will continue to help families in North Carolina keep their water running, a basic human need that’s critical for good sanitation and better health." LIHWAP is a temporary emergency program that helps eligible households and families afford water and wastewater services. The program provides a one-time payment for eligible low-income households directly to the utility company. LIHWAP runs through September 2023 or until the funds run out. Individuals can apply online at epass.nc.gov. Individuals can also apply by printing a paper application from epass.nc.gov and dropping it off at or faxing it to their local county Department of Social Services or by calling their local county Department of Social Services to apply by phone. To be eligible for LIHWAP, a household must have at least one U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen and: Have income equal to or less than 150% of the federal poverty level Have household services that are disconnected, in jeopardy of disconnection or have a current outstanding bill Be responsible for the water bill Households can apply through Sept. 30, 2023, or until funds are exhausted. For more information on this program and eligibility, visit the LIHWAP website at www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/social-services/energy-assistance/low-income-household-water-assistance-program-lihwap. × ICYMI: We just published our newest report "A Pandemic's Impact: Utility Disconnections, Evictions & Houselessness". Included is a list of resources for individuals facing economic hardships caused by the pandemic.


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  • Our Policy Wishlist for Private Well Users in 2022!

    Direct advocacy with communities on the ground for safe water and clean air is just one part of our Environmental Justice work! Policy development is a key aspect to ensure meaningful, sustainable change. We are excited to share our Well User Protection policy recommendations with our membership & NC legislators in 2022! Support Our Work Today Almost one third of North Carolinians rely on private wells for their drinking water - a source that is not protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. In partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill and the statewide Well Water Working Group, our team at CWFNC has developed two policy recommendations that we will be publishing in 2022 with the goal of raising support for these protections on the state level. Increased Funding for Private Well Tests Cost can be a major barrier for regular testing of private wells, particularly for low-income households. We believe this obstacle can be addressed by the Bernard Allen Fund, created in 2006 to improve the state’s response to private well water contamination and provide low-income households with a safe drinking water supply. Recommendations for the Fund include increasing funding available, providing a public application, increasing the household income limit or providing a sliding scale, and further addressing testing of naturally-occurring contaminants to better address threats to safe drinking water for well users. Requiring Well Testing Before a Real Estate Transaction A safe drinking water supply is essential to human health as well as protecting the value of residential property. If a real estate transfer is finalized before the property owner or renter discovers that the groundwater is contaminated, there may be limited options to remediate the issue. CWFNC believes that adequate testing is essential to due diligence prior to the purchase or rental of any property supplied by a private drinking water well, and is exploring policy initiatives in other states to help develop a similar policy recommendation here in NC. Thank you to all our new and recurring members for sustaining our Well User Protection policy work in 2021! We look forward to sharing more of this work and with you into the New Year! If you haven't given yet, consider donating to Clean Water for NC today and receive a tax deduction before the end of the year! Support Our Work Today


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  • NC governor vetoes bill that would keep local governments from banning natural gas

    By: Adam Wagner, Raleigh News & Observer December 9, 2021 Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Thursday that would have prevented local governments from banning natural gas in new construction and limited public information about drinking water. No local governments in North Carolina have moved to ban natural gas from new construction, but some governments in California and the Northeast have. That led to a nationwide push by the natural gas industry to enact state laws preventing future bans, which have now been enacted in at least 20 states. “This legislation undermines North Carolina’s transition to a clean energy economy that is already bringing in thousands of good paying jobs,” Cooper said in a statement. “It also wrongly strips local authority and hampers public access to information about critical information that impacts the health and well-being of North Carolinians.” For House Bill 220 to become law, 72 members of the N.C. House of Representatives and 30 members of the N.C. Senate would need to vote to override Cooper’s veto. When the bill returned to the House for concurrence in late November, it passed 57-46. Environmental groups said the legislation would prevent future action by local governments to curb the impacts of climate change, while Republicans who supported the legislation said it would protect consumers’ ability to choose the source for their heating and appliances. “The heavy hand of government has no place in the personal decisions North Carolinians make for their households,” Rep. Dean Arp, a Union County Republican who is among HB 220’s primary sponsors, said in a written statement. Elsewhere in the country, banning natural gas is part of the effort to “electrify everything,” shifting cooking and cleaning to electric stoves and heat pumps. The thinking is that as electricity continues to be increasingly generated by renewable sources like solar and wind, electrified homes will contribute less to climate change than those with appliances and heat powered by natural gas. The NC Home Builders Association was among the trade groups supporting the passage of HB 220. An association lobbyist previously told The News & Observer that the organization was worried that banning natural gas in construction could cause prices to increase and limit consumers’ energy options. The Natural Resources Defense Council, which has opposed similar legislation nationwide, praised Cooper’s veto. In a written statement, Luiz Martinez, the NRDC’s Asheville-based director of Southeast energy, said, “North Carolina must be able to pursue new policies to combat climate change, create clean energy jobs, and make our communities healthier — and HB220 would have prevented that.” Together, North Carolina’s commercial and residential buildings were responsible for the equivalent of 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2017, according to the N.C. Greenhouse Gas Emissions report released in January 2019. That was about 7.3% of the state’s gross emissions that year. In a written statement on Nov. 29, June Blotnick, the executive director of CleanAIRE NC, said, “City and county governments have been the vanguard of fighting climate change. This bill is a swipe at their ability to protect their constituencies.” A public records provision in the vetoed bill would prevent the public from obtaining detailed plans and vulnerability information about electricity generation or distribution; treatment or distribution of water; and wastewater outfalls. Environmental groups were worried that the language in HB 220 would prevent the public from obtaining detailed information about drinking water treatment or the locations of lead pipes. In a written statement, Cynthia Satterfield, the N.C. Sierra Club’s state director, said, “We support safeguarding our critical infrastructure, but we also support the public’s right to know how its water is being treated, and to have adequate information to provide comment on infrastructure projects.” The public records exemptions were originally introduced in House Bill 911. As the bill made its way through the House, a bipartisan group of legislators worked together to remove the wastewater collection and outfall exemptions. They also clarified that information about lead service lines would remain public. But HB 911 has stalled in the Senate for months, and the Senate added the original exemptions to HB 220. That raised some concerns among a bipartisan group of legislators in the House and, evidently, with Cooper. Read the article at Raleigh News & Observer


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  • A bill stopping NC governments from banning natural gas heads to governor’s desk

    By: Adam Wagner, Raleigh News & Observer November 30, 2021 The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation Monday that would prevent local governments from banning the use of energy sources, like natural gas, in new construction or renovations. House Bill 220 will now head to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. If he signs the bill, North Carolina would join 20 other states in passing similar legislation. No local governments in North Carolina have moved to ban the use of natural gas in construction, and environmental groups called for Cooper to veto the legislation moments after the House voted to concur. Supporters of the legislation…


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  • The legislature’s environmental budget: What’s in it, how much, and why it matters to you

    By: Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch November 17, 2021 For the past 10 years, Republican-led majorities in the General Assembly have sacked the Department of Environmental Quality budget, apparent punishment for enforcing, even meagerly, state and federal environmental regulations. Yet, for the first time since 2017, the legislature’s new proposed budget for DEQ exceeds $100 million. Although substantially less than Gov. Cooper’s proposal of $145 million, and still far short of what the agency needs to fulfill its mission, breaking the $100 million barrier is significant. So what does this mean to the run-of-the-mill individual taxpayer whose checks float state government? A review of the budget documents reveal some key appropriations, as well as items that bear watching, and of course, some questionable expenditures. Department of Environmental Quality Overall budget: $106.9 million in 2021-22 and $102 million in 2022-23 Image: Adobe Stock Item: Five new full-time positions for the “Emerging Compounds Unit,” devoted to mapping and determining the sources of PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane in waterways and drinking water. Plus two temporary positions in this unit will become permanent. Amount: $685,926 each year Why it matters: “Emerging compounds” is shorthand for Toxic Chemicals We Don’t Know Enough About But Will Likely Do Very Bad Things to Humans. Among them, PFAS are widespread in the state’s drinking water supplies. Also known as perfluorinated and polyfluroalkyl compounds, they are toxic, and have been linked to thyroid disorders, kidney and testicular cancers, immune system disruptions, reproductive issues and developmental problems in the fetus. Besides the Chemours facility near Fayetteville that has been the source of enforcement actions by state officials, there are other sources of PFAS — firefighting foam, for example — but the full scope of the problem is unknown. Another likely carcinogen, 1,4-Dioxane, is also found in drinking water, landfill leachate and wastewater sludge that is applied to farm fields. That sludge can seep into groundwater, contaminating private wells, as well as rivers and lakes that serve as public drinking water supplies. Knowing the source of these compounds can at least publicly identify them. Unfortunately, since the EPA hasn’t yet regulated these compounds in drinking water, the state’s authority to bring the hammer down is limited. (The City of Greensboro is a chronic offender and entered into a Special Order By Consent with DEQ; nonetheless, the city continues to discharge illegal amounts of the compound into the drinking water supply.) People who could be exposed to the compounds would benefit from the information, and could then decide whether to install filtration systems in their homes or pursue alternate water supplies — or sue the perpetrator. Image: Adobe Stock Item: Increase in monies for the Bernard Allen Drinking Water Fund Amount: A temporary increase to $700,000 each year, up from $400,000 annually Why it matters: This fund helps eligible households — based on income — secure an alternate drinking water supply if their private well becomes contaminated with human-made compounds. However, there is no income limitation for wells that are contaminated with PFAS. Chemours is responsible for paying for alternate water supplies for people living near its plant. But when the source is unknown, money from this fund pays for well testing as well as alternative water. (There are spending caps, given the finite amount of money.) However, there is a shortcoming in the law that established the fund: Households whose wells contain high levels of naturally occurring elements, such as arsenic and lithium, are not eligible, even though their health might be at risk. Item: Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Amount: $30 million Why it matters: Because it’s at the end of a 191-mile river, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority gets the dregs of upstream pollution — like a bar mat that collects all the excess beer and alcohol spilled over the course of a night. Since 2017, the CPFUA has grappled with trying to remove PFAS, including GenX, and 1,4-Dioxane from upstream dischargers, but because traditional treatment systems don’t filter those compounds, they can remain in the drinking water at high levels. CPFUA has spent money to improve its system with technology that removes about one-third of 1,4-dioxane from raw water. But the full cost to upgrade the water treatment system is upward of $46 million, plus another $3 million in annual operating costs. Unless the utility can successfully sue Chemours or another identified source, that expense is on the ratepayers. Ironically, though, by appropriating $30 million from state funds, taxpayers are still shouldering the financial cost, while lawmakers are phasing out corporate income taxes — like those on Chemours — by 2029. Photo: Creative Commons/jitze Item: Grants for water and sewer utilities that have been designated as distressed or are at risk of being distressed Amount: $456 million and $317 million, respectively Why it matters: We often take water and sewer service for granted — until one or both stops working. But more than a major inconvenience, substandard water and sewer can pose public health hazards: contaminated drinking water, sewer overflows into the streets and waterways, breaks in 70-year-old water mains that create sinkholes in the road. Some smaller cities and towns, especially those losing industry and population, no longer have enough customers to pay for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance. The towns get farther behind in fixing the systems, amass debt and can’t dig themselves out. The state moves in and declares them “distressed.” There are 22 public utilities currently listed as distressed based on water and sewer issues — and whose situation is worsening — according to state records. These funds, apportioned by the Water Infrastructure Authority, could help needy utilities repair their systems, provided of course, there are people to do the work. Of the 22 utilities in crisis, 10 also have “internal control” issues, which in short means their record-keeping and audits are a mess. In addition to general funding for at-risk utilities, who must apply to the Water Infrastructure Authority for money, 115 municipalities are receiving direct funds from the legislature. They don’t have to fill out forms or be scored in order to substantiate their need to the WIA. In other words, they’re cutting in line, thanks to friends in high places. Budget item: Coastal resilience Amount: Roughly $1.6 million Why it matters: The question is not if the coast will get battered next hurricane season, but how many times. Seaside and sound side communities are still recovering three years after Hurricane Florence, and a routine nor’easter can peel the pavement off Highway 12. Climate change is helping to strengthen storms while lifting sea levels, especially in northeastern North Carolina, where the ground is sinking at the same time — a double whammy. Coastal planning and management, as well as a person to do the administrative work, are key to these communities’ ability to adapt to a changing and unpredictable climate. But the money will go only so far unless developers stop building homes on the edge of the ocean — a situation that just begging for trouble. Worth tracking: The NC Policy Collaboratory an environmental and public health think tank housed at UNC-Chapel Hill, is now enshrined into law and funded at $1 million a year. Jeffrey Warren, former science and energy advisor to Senate leader Phil Berger, became the research director of the Collaboratory nearly five years ago. Although Warren’s tenure as the Berger policy whisperer produced some much criticized environmental bills around such topics as coal ash, fracking, and sea level rise, his time at the Collaboratory has resulted in some solid scientific research, particularly regarding PFAS. Photo: Adobe Stock One task for the Collaboratory is compiling a database of PFAS-containing firefighting foams ($100,000). The legislature devoted an entire section to these foams, known as AFFF. Once the budget becomes law, state and local fire departments, including those serving airports, must provide an inventory of all AFFF, including amounts, storage, disposal and “deployment” or use. Record-keeping must include the date, time and location of where AFFF was used, as well as how much and why the fire department used that type of material. This will allow state environmental officials to track where the AFFF might have entered waterways, but also gives public health officials a clearer picture of firefighters’ exposure to the chemical. However, the original language would have banned AFFF in training but was watered down at the last minute into this the AFFF study provision.   Photo: Creative Commons/OSU Master Gardener Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Overall budget: $169.8 million in the first year, $162.9 million in the second Item: Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program Amount: $250,000 in one-time funds Why it matters: Pro tip: Don’t throw your leftover pesticides in the trash. The money in this appropriation would be used to help — for free — farmers and homeowners in the safe collection and lawful disposal of banned, outdated or unwanted pesticides. Hazardous material shouldn’t go to a municipal landfill. Instead, pesticides should be disposed of in special landfill that handles this type of waste. Or you could just learn to live with the dandelions. Ravenous and invasive, the hemlock woolly adelgid (Photo: University of Florida Entomology Department) Item: Hemlock restoration Amount: $300,000 each year Why it matters: The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is an invasive, homely insect that is decimating vast acres of hemlock trees in the North Carolina mountains. It was also found in 2010 at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary. Hemlocks are known as the “redwood of the east,” according to the National Park Service. Some Eastern hemlocks can grow more than 150 feet tall on trunks measuring 6 feet in diameter. Some of these trees in the Great Smoky Mountains are over 500 years old. But when large stands of hemlocks die, as they are en masse in Western North Carolina, it ignites a chain reaction that damages, sometimes irreparably, habitats for fish, birds and other wildlife. These die-offs release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that drives climate change, into the atmosphere. Restoring hemlocks is key to rehabilitating parts of the mountain ecosystem as well as storing carbon in the trees. The Chestnut Knob fire south of Morganton in 2016 (Photo: NC Forest Service) Item: Wildfire suppression Amount: $4 million for an airplane tanker and a helicopter to help suppress wildfires, plus another $5 million to replace old fire suppressant equipment. An additional $1 million in grants go to forest owners for prescribed burning. Why it matters: Considering how wet the mountains were this year because of Tropical Storm Fred, it’s easy to forget about the possibility of wildfires. But so far this year in North Carolina, 2,801 fires have burned 8,422 acres, according to the NC Forest Service. North Carolina has already outpaced 2020 in the number of fires (2,302) and acreage burned (7,829). Prescribed burning is important to suppressing wildfires. Selectively burning understory — a longtime and effective method employed by Native American cultures — deprives potential wildfires of fuel.  Questionable: $200,000 in one-time money for the Cleveland County Fair, which is in House Speaker Tim Moore’s district, and a half million dollars to pave the Duplin County Events Center parking lot, which is in Rep. Jimmy Dixon’s district. Worth tracking: Proceeds from timber sales on Department of Agriculture land are to be used for land restoration and stewardship. How much money did the department earn from the sale of 19 acres of timber that is now a State Fair parking lot? Policy Watch filed a public records request on Oct. 28 for information on those revenues. Stay tuned.


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  • Environmental lawsuit challenges NC biogas production from hog waste

    By: Arturo Pineda, Carolina Public PressOctober 22, 2021 A complaint about pollutants from hog farms filed last month with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleges that the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s issuing of biogas permits to four hog farms will have a disproportionate impact on communities of color in the surrounding area.  North Carolina environmental and civil rights advocacy groups argue that if the biogas operations are allowed to operate, pollutants from the operations will affect the communities of color surrounding the hog farms.  Biogas production is…


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  • NC Legislature Finalizing Redistricting Maps – Be A Voice For YOUR Community!

    Our General Assembly is preparing to finalize the redistricting maps that could shape the state’s politics for a decade. Why Redistricting Matters! This is how funding is determined for communities,This determines how many House of Representatives each district receives, andRedlining can determine how votes are combined to favor one political party over another. The Republican-led legislature is aiming to have the maps for congressional districts and the General Assembly completed by Nov. 5. The state’s redistricting committees just announced public hearings…


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  • EPA to regulate certain types of ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water in 2023

    By: Rachel Frazin, The HillOctober 18, 2021 The EPA on Monday released its strategy for addressing a type of cancer-linked chemicals called PFAS, including its plans to finish a rule to regulate certain types of PFAS in drinking water in 2023. PFAS stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and these substances are a group of man-made chemicals that have been linked to health problems such as kidney and testicular cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure rates can be difficult to assess, but one…


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  • Pollution from N.C.’s Commercial Poultry Farms Disproportionately Harms Communities of Color

    By: Aman Azhar, Inside Climate NewsOctober 13, 2021 The legislation aimed at regulating North Carolina’s huge and largely unregulated poultry industry seemed modest in scope, requiring commercial chicken farms to submit waste management plans to environmental regulators so the public would know where millions of tons of chicken “litter” ends up.  But as the legislative session in Raleigh came to a close in July, the bill had moved not an inch—and no one was surprised. “We’re unlikely to see any poultry related legislation passed in the short run,”…


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