This appears especially true in the Old Home State where the (first in over 100 years) Republican triad used the 2013 session of the General Assembly to lay waste to decades of progressive environmental policy and programs that produced a state that was a leader in outdoor tourism, retirement destination, second-homes, environmental policy and protection, quality of life and prior to 2013 ranked number 4 on CNBC’s “America’s Top States for Business.” North Carolina has since been relegated to number 12 on CNBC’s list because of its declining “Quality of Life.”
The Republican majority wasted no time setting the tone for their environmental agenda, passing Senate Bill S-10 in January – bill that would fire all the members of the state’s environmental commissions and replace them with appointees. This particular bill was not signed into law but parts (firing all sitting Environmental Management Commissioners and most members of the Coastal Resources Commission and the Coastal Resources Advisory Commission, as per Senate Bill 10) were included in the state budget that did pass.
This was a tactic used throughout the session – bills that didn’t pass were chopped up and parts were inserted in different more favorable bills. House Bill 74, which was finally signed into law in August is one that comes to mind as it including all or large chunks of SB-612, SB-112 and HB – 94. This bill, among other things, shortens the time a third party has to challenge air or water permits from 60 days to 30; combines the Division of Water Quality and the Division of Water Resources; reduces air quality protections; eliminates the Mountain Resources Commission; and creates a complicated process for readopting any state rules, with the perceived intent of repealing such rules and designating surface water quality and wetlands regulations as the first rules to be reviewed.
Other casualties of the budget include the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which McCory had hoped to eliminate altogether and some think may still be in his sights. But at this point McCory has lumped the Natural Heritage Trust Fund with the CWMTF and budgeted both at only $10.4 million for next year, about a tenth of CWMTF’s pre-recession funding.
One only has to take a quick glance at CWMTF’s impact in WNC to see what a huge lost to environmental stewardship this is: $727,000 to Needmore expansion in 2005; $725,000 for Mill Creek septic hookups in Highlands in 2007; $1.2 million for Tuckasegee wastewater collection in 1997; $1.6 million for the acquisition of Beaver Creek the Andrews Watershed water supply; and the list goes on and on.
I recently saw a short description of environmentalism over the past decades. It is broken down into two schools of thought; “Pragmatic Environmentalism -?Pragmatic environmentalism seeks to protect the environment because it is in our species best interest to do so in the long term,” Kenyon College Department of Biology. And Ideal Environmentalism “The rejection of an exclusively subjective (anthropocentric) value system is necessary for ideal environmentalism, which endeavors to preserve and defend the natural landscape, for its own sake. They [ideal environmentalist] reject economic ‘necessity’ a viable human motivation in the face of excessive natural value destruction,” Kenyon College Department of Biology. I admit, I thought we had reached a kind of post-pragmatic environmentalism where people could see that defending the natural landscape for its own sake is the same as protecting what’s in our best interest as we are not separate from our landscape.
Regrettably when it comes to shortsighted politicians and corporate interests the lure of profit and/or power rends the dualism asunder like a ship slipping anchor leaving us once again on the seas of public opinion and political whim. The only thing left to do as environmentalists is to gird our loins and march back into the fray and tell our politicians: “Come senators, congressmen/Please heed the call/Don’t stand in the doorway/Don’t block up the hall/For he that gets hurt/Will be he who has stalled/There’s a battle outside/And it’s raging/It’ll soon shake your window/And rattle your walls/For the times they are a-changing.”