RALEIGH — Under a bill submitted by Republicans on Thursday in the General Assembly, Gov. Roy Cooper would have the power to shutter the Chemours plant off N.C. 87 in Bladen County if further GenX contamination continues.
Chemours is a manufacturer of the chemical that is used in producing non-stick cookware.
Democratic state lawmakers also submitted a bill Thursday, but theirs did not include giving Cooper any authority to shut down the plant. Some Democrats saw the item in the GOP’s bill as a political ploy to put the Democratic governor between a rock and a hard place.
New Hanover County Rep. Deb Butler went so far to say that, should Cooper be forced to close the Chemours plant at some point, he would be viewed as both a savior of those suffering water contamination as well as a “job killer.”
Also under the Republican plan, more than $10 million would be set aside for scientists and state regulators to continue research how much GenX and other chemicals are in public wells in the region; force Chemours to create an alternate and permanent water supply for those whose wells have been contaminated; allocate $1.8 million for the N.C. State Department of Environmental Quality to hire additional staffing for water sampling and analysis; provide $2 million for grants to assist local governments build water line extensions to those with contaminated wells; provide $8 million for university researchers to sample and analyze GenX and other chemicals in the area’s public well; and give funding to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority to test new technology for treating groundwater supplies.
The GOP bill was filed in both the House and Senate by Sen. Wesley Meredith of Cumberland County, Sen. Bill Rabon of Bladen County and Rep. William Brisson of Bladen County.
Under the Democrats’ bill, passage would repeal the controversial Hardison Amendment, which doesn’t allow regulators from setting a standard that is more stringent than those set by the Environmental Protection Agency. It would also provide nearly $10 million for the state’s DEQ to add staff; reconfigure the agency’s permitting process; and allow for more than $4 million for laboratory improvements and equipment.
The Democrat’sbill was filed Thursday in both the House and Senate by, among others, Reps. Billy Richardson and Elmer Floyd of Cumberland County.
“We are pleased the House and Senate worked together to come up with a comprehensive plan that will help stop the pollution of our water supply (and) provide our families, neighbors and constituents access clean, safe water — and finally hold Chemours responsible for its pollution,” the authors of the GOP bill wrote in a joint statement released Thursday. “This plan … puts the tools in place to help protect North Carolina from GenX and other emerging compounds going forward.”
A statement released Friday by Chemours officials:
“Two bills filed by the North Carolina legislature on May 17 address operations at The Chemours Company’s Fayetteville Works manufacturing facility.
“As we have stated publicly, Chemours is committed to continuing to work collaboratively with North Carolina officials to address the concerns raised by the community related to our plant operations. In fact, Chemours recently submitted a comprehensive emission control plan to NCDEQ, which outlines specific commitments and significant investments that we are in the process of making both at the plant site and in the adjacent communities.
“These investments will bring specialized, state-of-the-art emission control technology to the facility that will essentially eliminate air and water emissions of all PFAS compounds, not just GenX. These changes are already underway and will result in the Fayetteville plant becoming a best-in-class facility and a model for other chemical manufacturing facilities around the globe.
“Chemours is confident that the solutions we are implementing in Fayetteville will meet the community’s expectations with regard to environmental performance and stewardship; permit the plant to continue to be a source of high-quality, well-paying jobs for hundreds of North Carolinians; and allow us to meet the unique and critical needs of our customers, which include the U.S. military and the automobile, aerospace, and semiconductor industries, among others.”
The state’s Republican lawmakers currently hold a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate, but there has been no word on when the two bills might be brought to the floor of either chamber.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.