Special Raleigh Report: GenX and the Safety of NC’s Public Drinking Water

Special Raleigh Report: GenX and the Safety of NC’s Public Drinking Water

The GenX issue has focused on the Cape Fear area, but emerging contaminants raise serious questions about the safety of drinking water across North Carolina.

Nov. 9 2017 

Revelations that a potentially dangerous chemical called GenX has been found in the Cape Fear River – as well as the treated water supplies for hundreds of thousands of people in the Cape Fear region – for decades have been roiling in the press, in Wilmington politics and at the General Assembly since the news hit earlier this year.

But while the GenX issue has largely focused on the Cape Fear region, recent developments reveal that chemicals like GenX raise a host of questions about the safety of North Carolina’s drinking water more broadly, including in Western North Carolina.

GenX – An “Emerging Contaminant”

GenX is a often referred to as an “emerging contaminant” – a substance or chemical that has been discovered in our air and water but whose environmental and public health risks have been scarcely-researched. Because so little is known about these substances, federal standards for environmental or human exposures to them are rarely enacted. Nor do regulatory agencies regularly monitor for these substances. Instead, states have a lot of leeway under the federal Clean Water Act to regulate them – or not.

Keep in mind that there are between 80 and 130 million known chemicals, and new ones are developed regularly. About 85,000 of these are used in commerce, and perhaps 10,000 of these have been tested for toxicity. Under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed 126 of these chemicals as “priority pollutants” and flagged 65 as “toxic pollutants.” The EPA has banned just nine pollutants outright (PCBs, dioxins, chlorofluorocarbons, asbestos, hexavalent chromium and four carcinogenic mixed nitrates used in metalworking).

GenX – Not New to NC

GenX is used to manufacture Teflon. Its presence in the water of the Cape Fear has been known since at least 2015, and recent research by Harvard scientists disclosed that EPA-mandated sampling detected GenX in public drinking water supplies for 6 million people nationally between 2012 and 2015. North Carolina ranked third nationwide for the number of GenX detections.

The GenX issue finally got the attention it deserved in June of this year when the Wilmington Star-News reported that people in the Cape Fear region had been drinking GenX-contaminated water for years and that the local water utility and the state did not publicize the findings after they were alerted to the problem by Detlef Knappe, a water chemist at NC State University, in 2016.

The GenX Fallout

Since that revelation, DEQ has ordered the source of GenX, the Chemours Company, to stop all GenX discharges from its Cumberland County plant. DEQ has also ordered the company to stop discharging two other chemicals. A number of families living near the Chemours plant are now being supplied with bottled water after GenX contamination was discovered in their personal wells.

The EPA has begun investigating Chemours and its parent company, DuPont, and the NC Attorney General’s office has started a civil investigation. The local water authority in the Cape Fear region is also suing Chemours and DuPont, and the NC Department of Health and Human Services has reduced its “provisional health goal limit” for GenX from 70,000 parts per trillion (ppt) to 140 ppt in drinking water.

On the political front, Republicans in the General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper have traded charges about who is responsible for DEQ budget cuts and GenX going undetected for so long.

The Bigger Picture

While GenX has received a great deal of attention, it also raises much larger issues about North Carolina’s drinking water supplies. For example, Dr. Knappe, the NC State professor, recently told a legislative study committee that another emerging contaminant — 1,4-dioxane — is also present in Cape Fear drinking water at levels that exceed NC standards. Like GenX, 1,4-dioxane is not removed by traditional water treatment methods. Dr. Knappe estimated that more than one million North Carolinians, mostly in the Cape Fear river basin, are now drinking water that exceeds the state standard for 1,4-dioxane toxin.

Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette told the same committee that industries should be required to prove that the chemicals they want to discharge into drinking supplies are safe before they are permitted to do so. Right now, Kemp told the committee, polluters are only required to stop putting emerging contaminants into rivers and streams when there is scientific evidence that they are harmful — a process that can take years and cost a great deal of money to complete.

Another environmental group, the North Carolina Coastal Federation, has urged lawmakers to invest several million dollars in a new generation of water monitoring technology that can detect emerging contaminants and ensure that everyone — scientists, regulatory agencies and the public — know what is in our drinking water.

At MountainTrue, our Riverkeepers for the French Broad, Green and Watauga rivers and our Broad River Waterkeeper Affiliate are working with Riverkeepers from across the state to explore the extent of the presence of emerging contaminants in watersheds statewide.

We will also be joining the alliance of environmentalists, local governments, public health advocates and concerned citizens who are pushing policymakers to invest the time, money and regulatory muscle needed to keep our water clean and healthy.

More specifically, MountainTrue’s priorities for the state’s response to GenX include:

  • A full audit of all industrial dischargers into North Carolina rivers and streams so that we understand what chemicals are being discharged into our water;
  • Expanded state investment in water quality monitoring to detect emerging contaminants in all public drinking water supplies;
  • Full enforcement of the state’s authority under the Clean Water Act to detect emerging contaminants and to ensure they do not pose a risk to human health or the environment;
  • Full public disclosure of the results of water monitoring and discharge audits so that everyone — including the public — understands what is in our water; and
  • A transparent, open decision-making process to determine the best way to eliminate, reduce and prevent emerging contaminants in public drinking water.

More GenX Reading

You can find a GenX FAQ from the Star-News here.

All of the NC Department of Environmental Quality’s GenX information can be found here.

The North Carolina Health News’ reporting on GenX can be found here.

A good summary of Dr. Knappe’s work on 1,4-dioxane can be found here.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MT Raleigh Report | August 9, 2017

MT Raleigh Report | August 9, 2017

MT Raleigh Report | August 9, 2017

A quick report from Raleigh, with updates about last week’s special session and next steps on redistricting.

A So-So Special Session

Lawmakers gathered last week for a one-day special session scheduled when they adjourned their regular 2017 session in July. Originally, last week’s session was focused on complying with court orders to revise many of their voting districts. But days before the session, the court overseeing the redistricting case ordered a different calendar for revising the maps.

So, while lawmakers did not actually take up redistricting last week, they did approve a new calendar for approving new maps.

After approving the new schedule for redistricting, both the Senate and the House tried to work out deals on bills leftover from the regular session. They succeeded on one, Senate Bill 16, the “Business Regulatory Reform Act of 2016” – a hodgepodge of various provisions on a wide variety of topics. For MountainTrue, our concern with this bill focused on a provision that limits the ability of local governments to do more than the minimum to control stormwater runoff and reduce water pollution and flooding.

Unfortunately, the Senate and the House approved Senate Bill 16 with little discussion of these concerns. The bill now goes to the Governor, who has 30 days to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

The General Assembly also took up two other regulatory bills. House Bill 56, “Amend Environmental Laws,” is another collection of changes in a variety of policy areas. These changes included a host of last-minute revisions to the state’s solid waste laws, many of which had not been discussed. The other was the House Bill 162, which started out as a largely technical bill but was transformed into what one analyst called a “quarterback sneak attack against the state’s ability to strengthen environmental rules.” The bill seemed headed for a vote of the full House when Greensboro Rep. Pricey Harrison shamed the House leadership for taking up such an important bill with little notice or debate. Called out — and facing a likely extension of the session over the bill — the House leadership pulled House Bill 162 off the chamber’s calendar. Approval of House Bill 56 also stalled when Senate and House negotiators could not reach a compromise on the bill.

Up Next: Another Special Session

Under the plan approved last week, the legislature will return to Raleigh later this month to approve revised legislative districts that must be accepted by the court in September.

Here’s how the process is planned, at least right now:

  • Aug. 18: The legislature comes into session, with organizational, non-voting sessions of both House and Senate.
  • Aug. 22: A public hearing will be held on proposed legislative maps.
  • Aug. 24-25 – Both the House and Senate vote on revised redistricting plans.

In addition to taking up redistricting, the legislature can also override vetoes and take up unfinished business, including House Bills 56 and 162.

That’s the legislative news for now. Check back here for more MTRaleigh updates as the legislature goes in and out of session in the next few weeks.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | August 1, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | August 1, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | August 1, 2017

The latest from Raleigh, where lawmakers come back to town, briefly, this week and Gov. Cooper signs an important energy bill.

Legislature Back for a Not-So-Special Session

The Senate and House reconvene Thursday for a special session they scheduled before adjourning last month. While lawmakers have the flexibility to do just about anything they choose during this week’s session, they are widely expected to limit their work to a handful of unfinished bills left over from the regular session.

That means MountainTrue is on watch for the collection of “regulatory reform” bills that Senate and House negotiators are trying to settle. Of top concern: a provision to limit the ability of regular people, like adjacent property owners, to effectively challenge environmental permits relating to air pollution, mining and other issues. We’ll also be keeping an eye out for a proposal to strip local governments’ ability to regulate asphalt plants — an idea that has local governments in Ashe and Watauga counties particularly concerned. Both communities are currently wrestling with proposals for new or expanded plants in their areas.

This week’s special session is one of several we can expect in the coming weeks and months as legislators comply with court orders to redraw many House and Senate districts. You can read more about the ins and outs of this long-running — and enormously important — saga here. The courts ruled just this week that legislators must complete new maps by September 1 (or September 15 if they demonstrate suitable progress) and that no special election will be held before next year’s short session in May.

Governor Cooper Signs Energy Bill

The legislature approved one of the most contentious — and important — environmental bills of the year in the last hours of the 2017 regular session. HB 589, Competitive Energy Solutions for NC, included positive changes that will improve access to solar energy for many North Carolinians and continue to require large utilities to obtain significant portions of their power from sustainable sources. The bill is far from perfect, however, as it also includes what we judge to be an unnecessary and damaging 18-month moratorium on wind energy development in North Carolina. You can read our previous updates about this legislation here and here.

Because HB 589 included the wind moratorium, it was not clear whether Gov. Cooper would sign or veto the bill — or simply let it become law without his signature. After meeting with a variety of stakeholders, Cooper signed the legislation last week, while also approving an executive order directing state agencies to continue processing wind energy permit applications during the moratorium. Because wind permits can take months or even years to approve, the Governor clearly hopes that new projects will be ready for construction when the moratorium ends. The order also directs state agencies to do everything possible to support the wind energy industry in North Carolina. You can read the Governor’s announcement about HB 589 and the executive order here.

MountainTrue supports the Governor’s decision to sign the bill into law. While the bill is far from perfect, it will help stabilize the market for clean energy in North Carolina and give thousands of individuals and many communities expanded access to sustainable energy. It will also support countless jobs associated with this important new industry.

Help Us Clean Up Our Rivers

MountainTrue is partnering with a number of community organizations to support the annual Big Sweep cleanup of the French Broad, Watauga, Broad and Green rivers on September 9 — and we have invited legislators to join us. MountainTrue member and Senator Chuck Edwards from Henderson County was the first to accept the invite and we hope others will follow his lead. We need your help too, so sign up now and you may find yourself working alongside your representative or senator!


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | July 7, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | July 7, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | July 7, 2017

Greetings! We hope you enjoyed a fun and safe Fourth of July weekend. ICYMI, the legislature recessed late last week; so here’s a quick rundown of what happened and what’s next at the General Assembly.

Legislature Serializes Its 2017 Session

Last week the legislature wrapped up its 2017 session — sort of.

Typically, lawmakers approve the state budget some time in late June or July and sometimes even later. Then it takes a week or two (or more) of long days and nights of committee meetings and debates in the full Senate and House to approve a flurry of bills before they recess for the year.

This year, all of that took place, but, instead of ending the session for the year, lawmakers scheduled follow up sessions on August 3 and September 6.

The August session is intended to allow the legislature to override any vetoes by Gov. Cooper and take up any unfinished business from the regular session. The September session is intended to focus on the legislature’s long-delayed redrawing of legislative districts. But under the rules approved for both sessions, the General Assembly has given itself wide latitude to take up just about any issue it chooses. The rules also provide for the possibility of a third special session in November.

Effectively, the General Assembly didn’t end the 2017 session last week so much as it simply took a July recess. For reasons we’ll get to in a moment, that’s especially frustrating for environmentalists.

Last Minute, Not So Good Deal on Clean Energy

Before suspending the session, lawmakers approved HB 589, “Competitive Energy Solutions for NC” — a rewrite of state laws guiding the development and use of clean energy in North Carolina for millions of customers, businesses and clean energy companies. You can find previous updates about this important bill here.

The Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly approved the compromise bill several weeks ago with the backing of both Duke Energy and clean energy advocates, including MountainTrue. The GOP-controlled Senate, unfortunately, loaded it with a number of anti-clean energy amendments, the worst of which was a four-year moratorium on new wind energy projects. Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown of Jones and Onslow counties pushed the moratorium. Brown is a long-time critic of wind energy on the coast. He fears that it will limit aviation at important coastal military bases and undermine the state’s efforts to protect the bases from future federal base closures, despite repeated statements from military leaders as well as studies that conclude otherwise.

After a good deal of behind the scenes negotiation in the last hours of the session, GOP leaders agreed, over the objections of the clean energy industry, to an 18-month moratorium on wind projects. Both chambers quickly approved the legislation just past 1:00 a.m. on Friday and shut down the session a few minutes later.

It was a startlingly fast resolution to a complicated bill that left clean energy supporters grim-faced and angry after months of good-faith negotiations with both lawmakers as well as Duke Energy. The final bill puts two large wind energy projects in two poor rural counties at risk and sends a terrible message to the industry about the state’s long-term interest in wind and other sources of sustainable energy. You can read more about the final bill here.

As of now, it is unclear if Gov. Cooper will sign or veto HB589, or simply allow it to become law without his signature. Many of the clean energy stakeholders on the bill have been careful to outline their concerns with the legislation but have stopped short of calling for a veto. In part that may be because they know the GOP legislature has the votes to override any veto. It also reflects the fact that the legislation includes important policy changes that the solar industry needs to keep solar viable in North Carolina. For its part, Duke Energy says it opposed the moratorium but continues to support the bill.

What’s Next?

The legislature’s rolling, on-again, off-again session is particularly maddening for environmentalists. That’s because much of the most important legislation that was left in limbo when the legislature left Raleigh last week are the so-called “regulatory reform” bills. These are bills that are chock full of various changes to environmental rules and standards, a few of which are of great concern to environmentalists. With so much unresolved about these bills and lawmakers at home for the next few weeks, we fear that the already imperfect process for finalizing these bills will be even less accessible to the public, the press and environmental groups during the recess. One provision MountainTrue is particularly concerned about would greatly limit local governments’ authority over asphalt plants, including plants in Ashe and Watauga counties. We’ll be meeting with legislators from those areas as well as local government leaders before the August session on this proposal.

Finally, Some (Really) Good News

The “end” of the 2017 session was bleak for the environment in many ways, but there were some victories. Perhaps the most surprising was the defeat of a House bill that would have greatly expanded the power of the billboard industry at the great expense of local governments and the public’s ability to regulate them. The bill was sponsored by House Rules chairman David Lewis of Harnett County, who faced off with WNC Representative Chuck McGrady on the House floor in what was a polite, but long and no-holds barred debate on the bill. Most political watchers thought the best McGrady could hope for was to take enough votes away from the Lewis bill to allow it to survive a veto in the future. To everyone’s surprise, the debate convinced a good number of House Republicans to vote against the bill. The GOP votes combined with overwhelming opposition from House Democrats to defeat the bill outright. Thanks to McGrady for his leadership on the bill and to all of the MountainTrue supporters who called our legislators encouraging them to oppose this bill.

Another piece of good news: many of you also responded to our requests for calls and letters about a provision in one of the Senate regulatory reform bills that would have greatly limited the ability of citizens to appeal permits for big polluters like cement plants and quarries. We are happy to report that senators heard you on this issue, revised the provision and eliminated much of the language we objected to. We still hope the entire provision is struck before the overall bill is adopted, but we thank you for doing your part in helping with this interim victory.

Thank you so much for your support! Stay tuned as we will keep you posted on the final sessions of 2017 in the coming months!

Get the MountainTrue Raleigh Report delivered to your inbox; subscribe here. 


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 12, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 12, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 12, 2017

Last week, after months of speculation, private meetings and a lot of rumors on Jones Street, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives rolled out and quickly approved a bill to rewrite the laws that shape clean energy policy in North Carolina.

House Bill 589 is enormously complicated — and enormously important — as it will guide the development of clean energy in our state for years to come. Countless communities, thousands of jobs, millions of people and billions of dollars will be impacted by HB589. We won’t try to summarize it here, but you can find a good, plain-English overview of the bill here.

A legislative summary of the bill can be found here.

On the positive side, HB589 requires Duke Energy to obtain significant, new solar power over the next 4 to 5 years. It also includes a “Green Source Rider” to allow companies to more directly procure clean, renewable energy. There is also a new framework for a community solar program, a new rebate for rooftop solar and the option for some consumers to lease solar electric systems to power their homes and businesses. These are all programs that clean energy advocates have wanted for years.

That said, the bill is also deeply flawed. For example, after the initial period in which Duke Energy is required to procure significant new utility-scale solar power, HB589 gives the company far too much control over both large solar farms and the creation of rooftop solar on houses and other residential buildings. Expansion of solar energy into rural communities will be very limited because of the way the bill is written.  Furthermore, the rebates for rooftop solar and the solar leases are artificially capped and will help too few people.

Despite these and other flaws, the bill garnered bipartisan support (including all WNC Democratic representatives and most WNC Republicans) and endorsements from the state’s largest clean energy industry group, the NC Clean Energy Business Alliance, and the state’s largest clean energy advocacy group, the NC Sustainable Energy Association. The bill was also endorsed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and many – though not all – environmental groups, including the League of Conservation Voters.

For our part, MountainTrue reluctantly endorsed the bill as worthy of legislators’ support, despite its significant problems. Other organizations, such as Appalachian Voices and the NC Clean Air Coalition, opposed its approval. The Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center took a neutral stand on the bill to neither support nor oppose it.

Whatever position these organizations have taken on HB589, we all share an ambivalence about the bill and a deep frustration that GOP support for clean energy is so weak that this bill can be considered a win. No wonder that those who oppose HB589 are quick to acknowledge that there are parts of it that justify voting for it, and those who support it are just as fast to agree that there is much to oppose.

So what is going on with this bill – and in the legislature – that has left so many supporters of clean energy so ambivalent about HB589?

Answering that question begins with understanding that the clean energy industry — and its supporters — had a very weak hand going into the negotiations that led to the House’s approval of HB589.

For several years, the policies that made North Carolina a leader in clean energy have been under attack by many, though not all, GOP lawmakers as well as energy companies and conservative advocacy groups (many of them funded by fossil-fuel interests like the Koch brothers). The result has been a steady elimination or weakening of many of the state laws and policies that incentivize the use and production of clean energy. The Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit, for example, was allowed to expire in 2015. Clean energy supporters have spent years fending off GOP attacks on the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS), which requires Duke Energy and other power companies to buy or produce a significant portion of their energy from sustainable sources.

It’s worth taking a moment to consider Duke Energy’s part in this issue more specifically. The company has been complaining to lawmakers for years about integrating new solar onto the power grid and demanding that the legislature give it more control over where new solar generating capacity gets built. Duke has also created difficulties for the solar industry by slowing down the interconnection process for new solar farms and threatening to upend these successes before the N.C. Utilities Commission.

Then there is the Trump Administration, which is likely to launch its own assault on federal clean energy policies — many of which drive North Carolina’s clean energy efforts.

All of these challenges create uncertainty in the clean energy industry and its market in North Carolina. Facing that uncertainty and the very real possibility that the policy environment will get even worse, the clean energy industry chose to lock in what it could get in HB589 and stabilize the market for the foreseeable future.

For MountainTrue, we judged the clean energy industry’s support for the bill as the correct strategy for making the best of a very bad political environment. We also expect that Gov. Cooper’s appointees to the Utilities Commission (assuming they are approved by the legislature) will prioritize the sustainability of the state’s power supply. This would help soften the impact of the new bill. Additionally, we hold out the longer-term hope that redrawn and constitutional legislative districts will help encourage more legislators to represent all North Carolinians rather than a small but outspoken group of ideologues on energy issues. So this bill is not likely to be the last clean energy bill we see, and we hope future comprehensive bills will be more favorable.

In the short term, we’ll be working to make sure HB589 does not get worse. (We have little confidence it will get better as the clean energy industry’s support in the legislature is strongest in the House, where the bill originated.) There is no guarantee that the compromise bill worked out in the House will go unchanged in the state Senate, which was not included in the negotiations that led to HB589.

Right now it is not clear how the Senate will react to the bill or even if it will take it up this year. Attempts to amend the House compromise bill could lead to one or both of the bill’s two main stakeholders, Duke Energy and the Sustainable Energy Association, to reconsider their support. Renegotiating HB589 would likely be time-consuming and delay the end of the legislative session, which GOP leaders say will end in the next few weeks.

Perhaps the most likely outcome on HB589 is that the GOP-controlled Senate will either approve the bill as written in the last weeks of this session or wait and take it up during next year’s short session, which begins in May.

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that clean energy supporters should never have been forced into such an untenable position on this legislation. Those legislators who support this bill and Duke Energy have asked clean energy advocates to choose between an imperfect and flawed bill or a much worse policy. Our state and its future are worse off because of their lack of vision.

There is still time to tell your Senator what you think of this bill. Use this link to find your Senators and give them a call about clean-energy policy in North Carolina.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 8, 2017 – A Bit of Good News

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 8, 2017 – A Bit of Good News

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 8, 2017 – A Bit of Good News

A Bit of Good News

Late last week, the House approved its version of the state’s budget by a vote of 80-31. The good news is that on state funding for the NC Department of Environmental Quality, the House refused to go along with the Senate, which made staggering cuts to the Department’s ability to protect our air, water and public health.

A BIG thanks to all the MountainTrue supporters who called, emailed and wrote lawmakers to oppose these short-sighted cuts.

And by the way, while you’re celebrating, take a quick moment to call or send a quick note or tweet to Rep. Chuck McGrady of Henderson County to thank him for his leadership in improving the House budget for the environment. McGrady has a key leadership role in the House budget process and led the charge against the Senate’s DEQ cuts. His twitter handle is @ChuckMcGrady and you can email him at Chuck.McGrady@ncleg.net.

Unfortunately, our work protecting the agency that protects our water and air is not complete. With approval of the House budget comes the final step in the budget – conference. Conference is shorthand for the process the House and Senate use to work out their final, compromise budget before sending it to the Governor for signature (or veto).

The arrival of conference means we need to let lawmakers know, again, that we want DEQ to have the financial resources its needs to keep protect our natural resources.

So….Time to Contact Lawmakers Again

That means it is time to contact our legislators again, especially senators. You can click here to use our system to locate and contact your legislators. If you have time, please consider calling, as their offices are inundated with email this time of year. Keep it short and sweet – tell them to support the House funding for DEQ and oppose the Senate’s cuts to the agency.

The Curious Path of A Bad Transportation Bill

Another issue MountainTrue is working on is Raleigh got quite a bit of attention last week  – bill a establishing a new fund for transportation “megaprojects” of statewide or regional importance that cost more than $200 million. In North Carolina – which has a long history of mixing politics with transportation funding decisions to the detriment of the environment – we use something called the Strategic Transportation Investments (STI) program to prioritize how transportation funds should be spent across the state. STI was approved by the GOP legislature several years ago, with support from MountainTrue and other environmental groups, which welcomed it as a rational, transparent way to make these decisions.

Which brings us to the megaprojects bill, which would do an end-run run around the STI and leave decisions about how to spend the megaprojects money to a small committee within the NC Department of Transportation.

The bill had a curious pathway to an abrupt ending. It was approved by the House despite significant opposition within the House GOP caucus and much speculation that it would die a quick death in the Senate, where several key legislators were quite vocal about how much they disliked the bill. Yet when it arrived in the Senate, the bill moved quickly and easily through the committee process – much to the chagrin of MountainTrue and other opponents, who were repeatedly reassured not to worry about the bill. The mystery was solved when the bill hit the full Senate – where it was defeated overwhelmingly, with just one yes vote (from WNC Senator Jim Davis).

So what happened? Under Senate rules, a bill that is defeated on the floor cannot be taken up again during the session. So the Senate apparently disliked the megaprojects bill so much, they took the unusual step of driving the ultimate political stake through its heart – and killing the megaprojects proposal for not just the rest of this session but for the 2018 session as well. Thanks to all our WNC Senators – both Republican and Democrat – who voted against this legislation.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.