Monday, March 30, 2009

Wake County's Extreme Growth

The Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area (Wake, Johnston, and Franklin counties) grew by 4.3% from July 2007 to July 2008, and is the fasted growing metropolitan area in the country. The nation average was just under 1%, North Carolina grew by 2.0%, and the Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan area growth rate was 2.5%.

See News & Observer story and News & Observer population estimate tables.

This rapid growth creates several environmental issues such as increased traffic (with increased air pollution), increased use of water, and increased runoff into streams and lakes.

Unless the county and municipalities can regulate and reduce this growth rate, these environmental problems will just get worse. The growth will be self-regulating--when the traffic, environmental, water, and other problems get too bad, people will not want to live here and we will stop growing. However, perhaps we should reduce the growth rate to maintain our quality of life.

General Assembly News

In the NC General Assembly bills related to the environment are being introduced at a fast pace. There will be coverage of these bills in this section of the eNews. The links from the bill numbers connect to a bill information page on the General Assembly website. To read the actual text of the bill, look for the box on the left hand side of the page. For all bills there will be the word "filed." Under that is usually the word "Edition 1." Clicking on these will call up the actual text of the bill in PDF format. If the bill has been amended since it was filed, later editions will be shown. Click on the highest edition number to read the latest text of the bill.

Low-Emission Vehicle Program - Sen. Eleanor Kinnaird has introduced a bill, SB 688, which would direct the Environmental Management Commission to adopt the California emission control standards and would require state agencies to purchase vehicles that meet those standards.

Water Allocation - Bills have been introduced to establish water allocations rules in North Carolina. Some of the bills are:

SB 907, Water Allocation Policy Act of 2009, introduced by Sen. Daniel Clodfelter, is the primary water allocation bill.

SB 833, Delineate River Basins, (Clodfelter) (apparently identical to HB 802 by Reps. Lucy Allen and Pryor Gibson, makes the list of river basins for water allocation purposes the same as the 17 river basins used for water quality rules.

SB 661, Contiguous Premises/Allocate Costs for Water (Clodfelter), requires (with some exceptions) an apartment owner to charge individual tenants for their use of water to provide an incentive for conservation.

Other bills have been introduced relating to water; these will be covered in more detail next week.

Other Legislative Matters - Not all of the bills that have been introduced are good for the environment. Two bills are bad ideas:

HB 643, by Rep. Russell Tucker, authorizes storage of reclaimed (but not safe to drink) water in underground aquifers. This could endanger the quality of drinking water from wells.

SB 832, by Sen. Julia Boseman, will allow the Coastal Resources Commission to authorize construction of a terminal groin (a hardened structure) to protect beaches from erosion. However, these structures will endanger other beaches. For more information, click here.

Jordan Lake Rules - Rules were adopted by the Environmental Management Commission and approved by the Rules Review Commission to reduce the nutrient pollution of Jordan Lake. Bills (HB 3, SB 166 and HB 239) have been introduced in the General Assembly to disapprove the rules. If the bills are killed, the rules will go into effect. However, a compromise affecting the "retrofit" provision (the most controversial part of the rules) may be adopted. The latest information about the Jordan Lake Rules will be covered in this section when they occur. More information about the rules can be found at

The Cary Town Council and the Apex Town Council have both adopted resolutions in support of the rules. The Cary resolution can be read at:

Budget - The Governor's proposed budget has been released and is being analyzed by members of the General Assembly. The Senate will then modify the budget. The budget, as modified by the Senate, will then be considered by the House. Most likely the Senate and House will not agree, so the budget will be subject to negotiations between the House and Senate.

As most people probably expected, there is some grim news. One such item is the elimination of the Office of Environmental Education from the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources. The Governor does propose to continue funding the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), but at a reduction from $100 million/year to $75 million/year. The grant distributions from funds already appropriated have been frozen due to cash flow problems.

The Natural and Economic Resources section (book 5) of the budget can be found here. More information will be reported as the budget progresses through the Senate and House. Thanks to Dan Besse, editor of the NC Conservation Network's Conservation Insider Bulletin for insight on the budget.

Transit - The transit bill (HB 148) will allow counties, with voter approval, to charge an additional sales tax to pay for mass transit, including rail and buses. This bill has passed the House Transportation committee and will be heard by the House Finance committee (because of the sales tax change). No date has been set for the meeting. Support of this bill is a major effort of the Capital Group.

Cement Plant Near Wilmington State Senator Julia Boseman has introduced legislation (SB 699) to delay or stop a major cement maker, Titan, from to building a cement plant on the Northeast Cape Fear River just outside of Wilmington. The bill will delay all permits for cement plants in NC until September 1, 2010, and require the Environmental Review Commission to study the environmental impacts of cement plants. There was discussion about the bill (not a vote) at a meeting of the Senate environment committee on Tuesday, March 24.

The plant would destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands as well as cause air pollution. For the story in the Wilmington Star News, click here. For more information, see the Stop Titan website,

Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP)
Sen. Julia Boseman introduced SB 523 to fund the Community Conservation Assistance Program, a voluntary, incentive-based program that helps local governments and private landowners install storm water control measures. CCAP, administered by the Division of Soil and Water Conservation, provides educational, technical, and financial assistance to landowners through its network of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

More information about these and other issues will be reported here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sierra and Other Groups Sue State Over PCS Phosphate Mining Permit

The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, North Carolina Coastal Federation, Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, and North Carolina Sierra Club filed suit in the state administrative court against the NC Department of Water Quality challenging the issuance of a permit for a mine proposed by PCS Phosphate. See press release by SELC and story in News & Observer.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cement Plant Near Wilmington

A major cement maker, Titan, plans to build a cement plant on the Northeast Cape Fear River just outside of Wilmington. This plant would destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands as well as cause air pollution. For the story in the News & Observer, click here and in the Wilmington Star News, click here. For more information, see the Stop Titan website,

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Campo Public Hearing

Campo Public Hearing, Thursday, 3/5, 6:30 p.m.
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO; will hold public hearings on proposed plans for the first 10 years of a transit plan for Wake County at City Hall, 222 W. Hargett St. This will be a joint meeting with the Capital Area Friends of Transit (CAFT). CAFT will provide an update on our activities as well as a report on the transit legislation from Wake legislators. As members of the CAFT coalition, the Capital Group strongly encourages you to attend to learn more and to express your views on the Wake Transit Plan! The proposed 10-year Wake County Transit Action Plan includes:

• doubling of bus service throughout the county, including express service connecting outlying towns in Wake County

• a light rail transit line from Northwest Cary to NCSU, downtown Raleigh and to Spring Forest Rd. in Northeast Raleigh

For more on the 25-year long range plan and 10-year action plan, see the links below:
25-year plan:

10-year plan: