NC: "GOP-Led Budget Process Places Environmental Regulations at Risk"

"It's a volatile time in the state budget process, and North Carolina's main environmental agency can do little but watch as legislators, led by a recently installed GOP majority, work to close an estimated $2.4-billion shortfall through sharp cuts to its budget.

North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which addresses everything from forest and wildlife conservation to issuing permits that limit air and water pollution, has been one focus for Republican leaders looking to make the cuts they say are needed to meet their goal of closing the budget gap through spending reductions alone, with no added revenue to soften the blow.

This week's negotiations included a proposal to cut DENR's Asheville office by two thirds, and eliminate the Mooresville office (in the Charlotte area) altogether. Among other functions, the Mooresville office houses the western division of the state's Inactive Hazardous Sites Branch, whose mission is to protect the public from exposure to accidental releases of hazardous materials into the environment (see "Hidden Hazards," Jan 12 Xpress). Closing that office would not bode well for the cleanup of the hundreds of sites that agency already handles, including some 50 hazardous waste sites in Buncombe County alone."

Susan Andrew reports for the Asheville Mountain Xpress April 22, 2011.

Monday, April 25, 2011