News: Quick Takes

Cooper takes out leachate bill with sixth veto

Gov. Roy Cooper (CJ file photo)
Gov. Roy Cooper (CJ file photo)

Gov. Roy Cooper ended the most recent session of the N.C. General Assembly much like he started it.

The General Assembly in late June passed House Bill 576 — known as the “Allow Aerosolization of Leachate” bill. The Senate voted 29-14; the House, 75-45.

Cooper, a Democrat, responded with another veto, his sixth. Lawmakers have overridden the first five. Legislators will have to decide whether to let the veto stand or, again, to override the governor. The first special session will begin Aug. 3. At press time, Speaker of the House Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, had not responded to a request for comment.

H.B. 576, sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, requires the Department of Environmental Quality to approve aerosolization of leachate and wastewater from a lined sanitary landfill. It would allow, in some cases, the process at unlined landfills. The bill also permits DEQ to research, conduct investigations and surveys, make inspections, and establish a statewide solid waste management program.

DEQ has until March 31, 2018, to study approved aerosolization projects and report the findings to the Environmental Review Commission.

Aerosolization is the process of taking a physical substance — such as wastewater — and converting it into smaller particles that can be carried on the air. H.B. 576 would allow waste management industries to aerosolize landfill liquids and spray them over a designated field. The idea is that any solid contaminants will fall back into the designated area as clean water vapor disperses in the air.

“It’s a safe process and is so much better than the old-timey answer of the solution to pollution is dilution,” Dixon argued, as reported by WRAL. “We’re not diluting anything. We’re taking the bad stuff out.”

Brooks Rainey Pearson, a staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, has been a vocal opponent of the bill, arguing that viruses, mold, and asbestos are small enough to pass through the aerosolization process and be sprayed into the air.

“This is a witch’s brew of toxic chemicals,” Pearson told WRAL.

Critics of the bill, including the governor, also took issue with the wording of the legislation, particularly in how it requires DEQ to approve a particular technology.

“In this bill, the legislature exempts particular technologies that could potentially better ensure the health and safety of people and the environment,” the governor wrote in his veto message. “With use of the word ‘shall’ the legislature mandates a technology winner, limiting future advancements that may provide better protection.”

Cooper argues that scientists should determine whether the technology is safe, not legislators.