Skip to Main Content

^ Back to Top

NCLM News & Political Report

The two most significant environmental regulatory efforts in North Carolina in recent years dominated the political headlines across the state in this past month, starting with legislative elections and then becoming the subject of a constitutional battle between the executive and legislative branches of government.

2014 General Election Influences & Results

When they directed implementation of these new comprehensive environmental regulatory systems, N.C. legislators likely did not predict the outsized role onshore oil and gas development and coal ash management would play in their own elections.

But nationally, this election cycle proved ripe for political messaging surrounding energy and environmental issues, with the Washington Post reporting in the week before the election that national environmental groups spent more money (over $85 million) on political advertising and voter mobilization efforts than in any previous election cycle. The Cook Political Report attributed this unusual interest in such issues to several factors, including the number of competitive U.S. Senate races in states like North Carolina where energy development has become a prominent issue, as well as the background of large outside groups with a stake in the country's energy development. These outside groups included those funded by the Koch brothers, who made much of their fortune in oil development, and the new super PAC NextGen Climate Action, driven by a billionaire California renewable energy and environment activist.

In North Carolina's legislative races, the left-leaning Institute for Southern Studies reported that this national trend took firm root in these state-level elections. While final spending totals will not be available for months, just days before the election, the Institute counted record-breaking spending by environmental groups that opposed the legislature's actions on oil and gas development and coal ash management. These groups targeted their spending on the closest races in the state, and for at least three of the five legislative incumbents that lost elections, these two issues received a lion's share of attention by voters and the candidates themselves. In particular, election analyses attributed the loss by Lee County Rep. Mike Stone, a N.C. House member from the area most likely to experience onshore oil and gas development, to "whiplash from voters" over his support for oil and gas legislation.  Concerns about the effects of the oil and gas and coal ash management legislation also helped drive the results in two western races in which Reps. Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey, who also supported the legislature's efforts, were ousted. 

Despite the unprecedented levels of spending in these state legislative races by interests concerned with these two energy and environment issues, the partisan make-up of the N.C. General Assembly remained close to its 2013-14 levels. The GOP Senate majority gained one seat, and with a 34-16 advantage, will retain its supermajority. The Republicans experienced a net loss of  three seats in the House, but with a 74-46 advantage, will also retain their supermajority.

Perhaps due to this stability in numbers, especially in the N.C. Senate, most legislative observers have turned their attention to the one outstanding post-election decision: Who will serve as the next Speaker of the House? With current House Speaker Thom Tillis preparing to begin a term in the U.S. Senate, the race for his successor involves at least six publicly-identified candidates. Members of the House majority caucus will meet Saturday in Asheboro to conduct anonymous elections for the post as well as other caucus leadership roles. The outcome of those races will determine the make-up of that chamber's committee leadership. Committee leadership decisions are crucial because committee chairs greatly influence the flow of legislation through each chamber.

State Commissions Wade Into Issues

At the end of last week, no less than three state commissions took actions regarding the legislature's directives on oil and gas and coal ash management regulations.

Most prominently, on Friday, the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission finished the lion's share of its work to create a modern regulatory framework that will permit onshore oil and gas exploration in the state. Read the League's report of how that decision will affect cities and towns below in "Commission Completes Oil & Gas Rules."

Also on Friday, the Coal Ash Management Commission held its first organizational meeting. The Commission, created earlier this year by the legislature to approve Duke Energy's plans to secure and dispose of coal ash waste, received an overview of the many different environmental permitting programs that already regulate the management of coal ash. The Commission's meeting came one day after the electric utility released its initial plans to move coal ash from four of its unlined pits to other sites, including reclaimed clay mines. Those plans surprised and concerned local officials and residents in Lee County, whose abandoned mine sites would receive the bulk of the initial coal ash material. Duke Energy released the plans in response to an executive order from Governor McCrory earlier this spring, not pursuant to the legislature's action this summer.

Last week, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission also took its next steps in response to legislative mandates related to both environmental issues. First, it passed an uncontroversial rule regulating stormwater discharges from onshore oil and gas activities. The Commission also established two separate ad hoc committees to respond to legislative mandates to examine and report on issues related to coal ash management. Read about a report generated by the committee examining groundwater compliance boundaries in "EMC Forwards Recommended Groundwater Compliance Boundary Changes," below. The other ad hoc committee began its study of the beneficial reuse of coal ash material, with a report to the legislature expected next year.

Governor Takes Legislative Leaders to Court

Finally, Governor McCrory involved the judicial branch in the debate over oil and gas development and coal ash management last week as well. In a lawsuit filed Thursday, McCrory and former N.C. governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin sued legislative leaders Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis, alleging that the way the legislature set up both the Coal Ash Management Commission and the next incarnation of the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission is unconstitutional. Specifically, the governors argued that because the legislature did not give the executive branch the majority of appointments to these commissions, it acted outside of its scope of constitutional authority. McCrory raised this same issue during legislative debates on these two topics earlier this year, and he allowed the coal ash management bill to become law without his signature, signaling his protest over legislative decisions regarding appointments to these state boards.

^ Back to Top

Regulators Approve Changes to Surface Water Quality Standards

Acting in support of one of the League's top regulatory goals, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) voted Thursday to approve the long-awaited amendments to the state's surface water quality standards -- a rulemaking process known as the "triennial review." The triennial review is a process mandated by the federal Clean Water Act that directs states to review their surface water quality standards every three years. A highly technical scientific process, the review accounts for updated toxicological studies and other research regarding the aquatic health of surface waters.

The League filed comments in August in favor of the proposed changes; the League membership selected the triennial review as one of its top regulatory goals because of the impact the standards have on wastewater treatment costs, as well as on the growth of business and industry in communities. The League specifically supported changing the standard for hardness-dependent metals from "total recoverable" to "dissolved" because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that measurement of the dissolved form of metals most closely represented the bioavailable form of metals and was thus the most appropriate way to express the standard. In addition, the League supported the retention of action levels and requested the addition of a "water effect ratio," which the EMC added in the approved amendments.

Amendments Approved

Amendments to the water quality standards that were of specific interest to municipalities included:

  • Total recoverable metals to dissolved metals: Changing some standards from total recoverable metal concentrations to dissolved metal concentrations where measuring dissolved metal concentrations more accurately described the portion of the metal that is toxic to aquatic life. Along with this change, the EMC further directed that dischargers evaluate compliance with the standard based on two different measurements: one for "acute" effects on aquatic life, and the other for "chronic" effects on aquatic life.
  • Hardness: Taking into account the effect that water hardness has on the toxicity of metals.
  • Action levels: Retaining the action levels for copper, zinc and chloride, with the criteria for copper and zinc now based on the dissolved form of the metals.
  • Biological integrity. Allowing for careful consideration of aquatic life biological integrity for water quality assessment purposes.

Additionally, as a result of the multiple requests to include specific language for deriving site-specific metal criterion (including requests from the League), the EMC added the EPA-approved site-specific adjustment known as the “Water Effect Ratio” (WER). WERs are used to derive site-specific “multipliers” to account for chemical differences in laboratory dilution water and ambient site waters. In the adopted rule, the language stated that until a wastewater discharger submitted specific acceptable aquatic toxicity tests, the applicable WER multiplier would be one.

Metals Monitoring

In expectation of the above-mentioned updates to the State's surface water quality standards and changes to monitoring procedures that may result, the N.C. Division of Water Resources (DWR) organized a meeting in September to review potential new monitoring procedures, specifically examining the change of the metal standard from "total recoverable" to "dissolved." Because the new surface water quality standards represented a significant departure from the current standards, the number of samples needed from monitoring coalitions will likely increase -- instead of taking one sample, sampling will need to move to two samples/hour (for acute standards) and four samples over a 96-hour period (for chronic standards). At the request of wastewater discharge monitoring coalitions and interested EMC members, DWR recently compiled and released a report analyzing metals data collected since 2007. Based on information in the report, it is expected that as DWR implements dissolved criteria, the most widespread occurrences of metals exceeding criteria would be copper, followed by zinc.

Looking Forward

Commissioner Steve Tedder, who served as the hearing officer leading the triennial review process, noted Thursday that the EMC would initiate the next triennial review fairly soon and would likely address standards for ammonia, methyl-mercury, and sources of industrial pollution (such as coal ash and hydraulic fracturing). The League has been deeply involved in the triennial review effort since it began in 2009 and will continue to advocate in future reviews. Read more about past League member efforts in:

^ Back to Top

Commission Completes Oil and Gas Rules

The N.C. Mining & Energy Commission (MEC) voted Friday to approve rules regarding the management and development of onshore oil and gas exploration, completing its regulatory package and sending it on to the N.C. Rules Review Commission (RRC) for oversight. The League participated extensively in the MEC's oil and gas rulemaking process over the past two years, serving on numerous workgroups and submitting comments on the proposed rules. The League's comments focused on proposed regulations related to water withdrawals, wastewater disposal, baseline water supply testing, setbacks, local government preemption, and reimbursement for infrastructure costs.

After a public comment period and a series of public hearings throughout August and September, the MEC met three times in early November to review the hearing officers' report and make any changes to its proposed rule-set based on the over 200,000 comments received. The hearing officer, Commissioner Amy Pickle, led the commissioners' discussion of the comments and the hearing officers' recommended changes

Changes to Regulatory Package Affecting Municipalities

Noteworthy from the report was that the MEC received over 6,900 comments in opposition to the rules containing language that would preempt local government authority. However, the report also noted that S.L. 2014-4 prohibited local governments from exercising full regulatory authority over these activities, if that exercise of authority had the effect of prohibiting hydraulic fracturing. The report went on to state that the 2014 law mandated that the MEC establish procedures to determine whether and to what extent local government ordinances were preempted by the State. 

In addition, the report stated that the MEC received over 4,980 comments requesting the addition of impact fees to provide for cost recovery for local communities. But it also clarified that the MEC lacked the statutory authority to implement such a fee. However, in discussions, MEC Chair Dr. Vikram Rao noted plans to make a variety of requests of the legislature, which could include legislation related to impact fees. These fees will be necessary to ensure that local governments are provided critical reimbursements for any damage to infrastructure, such as harm to roads.

Other changes to the rules that were of specific interest to cities and towns included:

  • The requirement that each permit application be reviewed by the county and municipality in which the proposed permit is located (Rule .1307)
  • The addition of a setback distance of 1500 feet to protect municipal water supplies (Rule .1601)
  • The clarification that any variances for setbacks must provide for equal or greater protection of public health, safety and the environment (Rule .1603)

Waste Management

In addition to the changes above, commissioners held a lengthy discussion regarding a requirement for waste management plans and options for disposal of exploration and production (E&P) wastewater. Although disposing of E&P wastewater at publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) was just one of the proposed allowable options for waste disposal, commenters expressed concerns about adequate pretreatment of the waste. Commissioner Pickle explained that federal pretreatment standards set requirements for industries that discharge wastewater to a POTW, but there were components specific to the oil and gas industry that were not included in permit limits for pretreatment. Further, she said that although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was in the process of creating categorical pretreatment standards specific to the oil and gas industry, EPA had not yet placed those standards into rules.

To address this concern, the MEC included additions that would (1) require the oil and gas permittee to submit a copy of its approved Industrial User Permit to the N.C. Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources (DEMLR) and (2) require the permittee to notify DEMLR if a facility identified in its waste management plan refused to accept its waste. In the event an oil and gas operator could no longer send its waste to the original facility, the rules stated that the operator must submit a revised plan that identified a new disposal facility. 

Rules Review Commission

Next, the MEC's approved rule package will go to N.C. Rules Review Commission (RRC) for oversight. The RRC does not have the authority to question the substance of a rule; instead, it is charged with reviewing and approving rules adopted by state agencies under the following standards that are set by statute:

  • “Authority”: whether the rules are within the authority delegated to the agency by the General Assembly
  • “Clarity”: whether the rules are clear and unambiguous
  • “Necessity”: whether the rules are reasonably necessary to fulfill a duty delegated to the agency by the General Assembly
  • “Compliance with the procedural requirements”: whether the agency complied with the procedural requirements for enacting the rules

After review by the RRC, the rules will proceed to the N.C. General Assembly for consideration early next year, ultimately opening the door to oil and gas production and development activities. The League reported on the actions of the legislature and MEC in regards to this rulemaking in previous EcoLINC articles:

^ Back to Top

State Solicits Members for Nutrient Plan Scientific Advisory Council

The N.C. Division of Water Resources (DWR) announced in early November its solicitation of names for potential members to serve on the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) for North Carolina’s Nutrient Criteria Development Plan (NCDP). This announcement included the SAC's charter, which listed details regarding the duties and requirements of SAC members.

The NCDP is a roadmap for state regulators to use when developing nutrient management strategies such as the Jordan Lake Rules or Neuse Rules. With this letter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the State's NCDP in late June, although this final approved version differed significantly from previous versions produced by the State with stakeholder input.

Because most regulatory costs of addressing nutrient impairment in the state's waters falls to municipalities -- which assume a primary responsibility for implementing the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act -- the SAC's role in aiding in the development of “numeric nutrient criteria” (NNC) and reviewing proposed nutrient criteria is of extreme importance to North Carolina cities and towns. Anticipating this potential impact to municipalities, League members met with DWR staff in August to express concerns that a previously proposed draft SAC charter was not broad enough to fully assess and develop nutrient criteria, evaluate implementation impacts, or recommend a nutrient standard. In addition, the League members expressed concerns that the SAC would not meet the Plan's stated purposes of (1) helping develop the management approach for each water body type, or (2) of advising DWR on social and economic issues pertaining to nutrient management and implementation.

Scientific Advisory Council

In DWR's attempt to address concerns over NCDP implementation, the solicitation and the current SAC charter included information regarding the formation of a "Criteria Implementation Committee" (CIC). The CIC will work with DWR, after the SAC recommends site-specific nutrient criteria, to determine implementation details and fiscal implications. The creation of the CIC addressed some of the League's concerns regarding the process, but the League and other stakeholders continue to push for the SAC and CIC to operate together and in consultation with one another. This cooperation is crucial because the SAC's work product will have huge impacts on implementation costs borne by municipalities.

In regards to the SAC membership, the State plans to give preference to those individuals with doctoral degrees and experience-designated fields, but the State will also consider for appointment individuals with significant experience and otherwise appropriate academic credentials; the draft charter listed the membership criteria as follows:

  • Scientist with expertise in the study of nutrients in freshwater ecosystems
  • Scientist with expertise in the study of nutrients in estuarine ecosystems.
  • Scientist with expertise in process-based and statistical water quality/nutrient response modeling
  • Scientist with expertise in the study of fisheries and food webs in freshwater and saltwater ecosystems
  • Scientist with expertise in freshwater and saltwater hydrology and hydraulics, including the effects of dams on water movement
  • Scientist currently serving on the Contaminants Management Workgroup of the Albemarle Pamlico National Estuary Partnership

As described in the current charter, the CIC will begin collaboration with the DWR after the SAC selects the appropriate nutrient criteria for a specific water body or water body type. DWR will solicit names for the CIC after the SAC recommends nutrient criteria; the draft charter listed the CIC members' qualifications as follows:

  • A North Carolina licensed professional engineer with expertise in nutrient abatement technologies in best available technology for wastewater.
  • A North Carolina licensed professional engineer with expertise in nutrient abatement technologies in best management practices for non-point source runoff.
  • An environmental professional with national/regional experience in linking the scientific aspects of nutrient controls, including criteria development, TMDLs, permitting and water quality management planning.
  • An economist with expertise in water quality/nutrient management.

Nutrient Criteria Development Plan

DWR began developing the NCDP in late 2012, and since then, the Division solicited public comment four times. The League commented on the Plan each of these times. The NCDP is required as part of an agreement between DWR and EPA that outlines a work plan for regulators to use in addressing nutrient impairments across the state. Similar work plans, negotiated for all states receiving EPA funding, contain a description of an agency's tasks, timelines, and milestones for NNC development. The League participated in all previous NCDP efforts and reported extensively on them in previous EcoLINC articles:

The League plans to submit suggestions to DWR regarding the form and function of the SAC and the CIC, as well as nominating individuals to serve. Recommendations of SAC members should be emailed to Steve Kroeger ( by November 28, 2014.

^ Back to Top

League Requests Changes to Federal "Waters of the U.S." Rule

The League submitted comments last week regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' (Corps) proposed rule to clarify the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act (CWA), or those water bodies legally considered "waters of the U.S." In its comments, the League highlighted that municipalities were responsible for implementing many of the CWA's requirements, and therefore, they needed to have a clear understanding of the full effect of any changes to the definition of “waters of the U.S.”

Jurisdiction is an important issue to cities because it triggers CWA regulatory actions, such as permitting, that apply to projects cities undertake such as road-building and construction of water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. In addition, if a municipal project impacts jurisdictional waters, the city must undertake mitigation measures to compensate for any disturbances to those waters. Finally, cities often implement programs when overseeing development practices at the local level that depend on jurisdictional determinations for disturbed waters.

The League comments stated that the proposed rule’s vagueness left many terms open for interpretation and therefore undermined EPA and the Corps’ stated purpose for the rulemaking: clarity. The League requested that man-made ditches and other aspects of Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) be categorically exclude from the definition of “waters of the U.S.”

Exemptions and Clarity Requested

In pointing to ambiguity within the proposed rule, the League noted that EPA either did not define many terms or defined them too broadly. An example of this lack of clarity was apparent in the proposed rule’s ditch exemption, in which the proposed rule stated that man-made conveyances, including ditches, were considered jurisdictional tributaries if they had a bed, bank, ordinary high water mark, and flowed directly or indirectly into a “water of the U.S.” regardless of perennial, intermittent or ephemeral flow. At the same time, the proposed rule would exclude certain types of upland ditches with less than perennial flow or those ditches that did not contribute flow to a “water of the U.S.” However, since the proposed rule did not define key terms like “uplands” and “contribute flow,” it was unclear how currently-exempt ditches would be distinguished from jurisdictional ditches. To address this uncertainty, the League requested that EPA and the Corps specifically exclude man-made ditches from the definition of “waters of the U.S.”

In its comments, the League also expressed concern over the proposed rule's effect on MS4s. Specifically, the League commented that EPA did not explictly exempt many aspects of a MS4 system (ditches, channels, conveyance, etc.), which meant that those features could therefore be considered jurisdictional. If considered jurisdictional, the rule would subject these components of the MS4 system to CWA Section 404 permits, as well as state Water Quality Standards, causing large, unnecessary public expenditures. The League requested that MS4s and their component man-made parts be categorically excluded from the definition of a “waters of the U.S.” because EPA already regulated them under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater permitting program.

History of Proposed Rule

EPA and the Corps released this long-awaited proposed rule in late March, stating an intention to clarify which wetlands and smaller waters were considered "waters of the United States" and therefore "jurisdictional," or subject to federal permitting and other regulatory actions. The jurisdiction issue has long been in dispute and uncertain because of competing U.S. Supreme Court tests and conflicting EPA guidance.

The Supreme Court, in Rapanos v. United States, issued a plurality decision in 2006 that set two tests for determining if waters were jurisdictional. The first test was authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, who ruled that only "relatively permanent" waters holding a "continuous surface connection" to a traditionally navigable water of the United States can be considered jurisdictional. The second test was authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy in a concurring opinion, where he ruled that waters that shared a "significant nexus" with jurisdictional waters can also be regulated under the CWA.

The agencies stated in the proposed rule that the court precedent has resulted "in the agencies evaluating the jurisdiction of waters on a case-specific basis far more frequently than is best for clear and efficient implementation of the CWA. This approach results in confusion and uncertainty to the regulated public and results in significant resources being allocated to these determinations by federal and state regulators."

^ Back to Top

EMC Forwards Recommended Groundwater Compliance Boundary Changes

The N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) on Thursday forwarded to a legislative environment oversight committee a report containing recommendations for revisions to the state's groundwater compliance boundary rules. The Commission made these recommendations in the midst of a legal fight regarding its 2012 decision interpreting these same rules. A compliance boundary is a boundary around a disposal system at and beyond which the state's groundwater quality standards may not be exceeded.

The report, required by the legislature as part of the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014, contained the EMC's recommendations to clarify current groundwater compliance boundary rule language. The topic became heated two years ago when environmental groups pushed for the initial EMC decision in the hopes of using this rule to apply more stringent regulations to coal ash ponds across the state. Several rounds of legal and legislative wrangling ensued when the EMC ruled against the environmental petitioners, and finally, the Dan River coal ash spill in February prompted further legislative attention to the issue. Read more about the various legislative and judicial actions on this topic in this March 2014 EcoLINC article.

Cities' Stake in the Compliance Boundary Debate

While it considered how state groundwater regulations applied to coal ash ponds operated by Duke Energy, the EMC's initial ruling extended to other industrial activities, including those undertaken by cities like land application of biosolids. Biosolids are the nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of the residue generated during the domestic wastewater treatment process. After being treated to strict standards, biosolids are safely recycled and used as fertilizer when "land applied" -- or irrigation sprayed -- on agricultural fields.

The League acted in support of the EMC's initial ruling because an adverse ruling could force cities that have long operated Class B biosolids disposal programs -- those first permitted before December 30, 1983 -- to undertake expensive "immediate" actions to eliminate the sources of any discharges that contributed to a violation of the state's groundwater quality standards. The League supported this decision because it preserved a longstanding interpretation of state regulations. In particular, prior to this ruling, the state typically interpreted its rules such that it did not subject older sites to an immediate elimination of contamination sources in the event of a groundwater quality standard exceedance.

Likewise, the League supported the EMC's initial decision to preserve another long-held rule interpretation that did not require a full "corrective action" plan if the contamination stayed within a facility's compliance boundary.

EMC's Recommended Rule Clarifications

Fast-forwarding to last week, the EMC's recommended rule clarifications addressed both aspects of the compliance boundary debate.

First, the EMC recommended to the legislature that it strike the language requiring "immediate" actions to eliminate groundwater contamination sources. The elimination of this language would not result in less regulation; rather, it would allow permit-holders flexibility and time to write and execute defensible clean-up plans. The EMC's recommended rule language was also in line with statutory language rewritten by the legislature earlier this year.

Next, the EMC recommended language to clarify the trigger for a facility to undertake a corrective action plan, pegging it to the location of contamination "at or beyond" the compliance boundary. If no compliance boundary had been established -- a situation typical for older, non-permitted facilities -- the EMC recommended clean-up orders when the facility exceeded groundwater quality standards. This language would codify the state's long-standing practices when deciding when to require groundwater contamination clean-ups.

Throughout their debate last week, EMC commissioners struggled with how to modernize the rule language to address three distinct contamination events: (1) those caused by unpermitted discharges; (2) those caused by permitted discharges; and (3) those caused by regulated, though older, facilities whose discharges are legally considered "unpermitted." Future rulemaking actions could spell out different requirements for each of these three categories of discharges. Municipalities could potentially undertake activities in all three of these categories.

At the same time it made these recommended changes to the legislature, the EMC announced that it would initiate permanent rulemaking in January to implement many of these recommended changes. The legislature could also choose to take action on this topic when it reconvenes in January. In addition, both actions could be affected by a ruling from the N.C. Supreme Court in litigation surrounding the issues. The Court removed the case from the N.C. Court of Appeals in October, and both parties are now preparing briefs for the Court.

^ Back to Top

Regulatory Briefs

The EMC Water Quality Committee received information regarding DWR's plans for comprehensive basin planning, which will integrate water quality and water quantity plans into one plan, using a web-based approach...In addition, the Water Quality Committee received information that because the temporary consolidated buffer rule that was approved in October will expire in August of 2015, the EMC will start the adoption of the permanent rule in January to ensure no gaps in the rules...The EMC Groundwater Committee received information regarding a DENR study on the use of contaminated property required by S.L. 2014-120, noting that the Committee's report to the ERC would not contain recommended legislation, but instead just outline options for legislators to consider, including options for revisions to the State's groundwater quality standards...The EMC approved amendments to the stormwater rule to comply with the change in S.L. 2014-120 that removed gravel from the listed statutory exemptions to built upon area calculations and eliminated the need for a gravel definition...The EMC also adopted the hearing officer’s recommendations regarding a new stormwater rule and other water quality rule amendments for oil and gas operations...The Coal Ash Management Commission (CAMC) held its initial organizational meeting Friday to receive an overview of coal ash disposal issues and will meet next January 14 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh...Meanwhile, on the previous day, Governor McCrory and two past N.C. governors filed a lawsuit challenging the legislature's authority to create state commissions, including the CAMC, stating that those actions encroached on executive branch functions...DWR reclassified Sutton Lake, which receives coal ash wastewater discharges from Duke Energy’s coal ash facility near Wilmington, as a "water of the state" instead of a private cooling pond -- a classification that meant the lake would be protected by more stringent water quality standards...In addition, DWR directed Duke Energy to resubmit its plans for assessing groundwater at its fourteen coal ash facilities in North Carolina, stating that the plans the company submitted in September were inadequate...All the while, Duke Energy filed ash removal plans Thursday for the four power plants where legislators have said ash must be excavated by 2019, stating that the company would ship one million tons of coal ash from its Riverbend power plant to open-pit clay mines in Chatham and Lee counties...Rose Acre Farms urged a federal district court to bar EPA and N.C. state agencies from issuing CWA permits for air emissions of feather and farm dust, arguing that the CWA agricultural stormwater exemption included dust; in addition, it asked the court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction...Without a national stormwater rule, environmentalists are pursuing a strategy focused on strengthening the terms of new and reissued MS4 permits, in addition to filing citizen suits to force further definition of the "maximum extent possible" standard...Environmental advocates filed a lawsuit against New York State officials, seeking to ensure that federal CWSRF funds would not be used to fund a bridge construction project or any other ineligible projects in the future...EPA approved use of SRF funds as matching funds for loans under the new WIFIA program...EPA planned to include considerations of a water system's finances in its updated affordability guidance (to be released in the next month), supplementing its original 1997 guidance and including metrics to address a system's liquidity, size/diversity, and operational strength...In addition, EPA provided notice in the Federal Register of its proposed rule requiring technology-based pretreatment standards under the CWA for discharges of pollutants into POTWs from existing and new dental practices that discharge dental amalgam...A USGS report stated that the benefits of wetlands should be balanced against the fact that they promote the conversion of inorganic mercury into dangerous methylmercury, finding that concentrations of methylmercury in wetlands are higher in wetlands than any other landscape...In federal District Court, environmentalists argued that Kentucky's proposed water quality criteria was not protective because its chronic criteria for selenium focused on fish tissue and therefore removed fishless streams from selenium criterion, allowing for unmitigated adverse impacts to non-fish aquatic life.

^ Back to Top

NCLM and State Government Environmental Meetings & Events