Exclusive interview with Gov. Cooper on veto of bill addressing GenX

Remigio Civitarese
Settembre 22, 2017

GenX and clean drinking water are concerns that have been circulating in the Cape Fear among residents, homeowners, parents, and politicians since June.

Governor Roy Cooper vetoed House Bill 56 today, in the latest development of a partisan struggle over funding for and authority over the GenX issue.

The bill also takes down a long-standing target for many in the General Assembly's GOP majority: A 2009 law forbidding retailers in three coastal counties from giving customers single-use plastic bags, except to contain fresh fish, meat, poultry or produce. State health officials have said the public can safely drink the treated river water coming from the local treatment plants.

"This cynical legislation fails to address the concerns of families in the Cape Fear region and does nothing to protect drinking water statewide going forward". Michael Lee of Wilmington said in a release.

"Zero money to the agencies that really matter", Cooper said.

Senate Republicans said Cooper was placing politics ahead of public safety with the veto, and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said he would push for an override.

Environmental advocates say other troublesome provisions of the bill could bring fiscal instability to county-owned landfills and erode natural vegetative buffers that help keep pollution out of bodies of water. While the presence of GenX in the river has fallen, state regulators and Chemours also are now looking at groundwater sites and private wells near the plant.

Cooper ticked off a string of complaints about the bill, noting that it doesn't include near the $2.6 million he requested to study GenX in the Cape Fear River and that none of the $435,000 legislators did approve would have gone to state agencies. The need for bottled water wasn't established in 21 other nearby wells.

State attorneys persuaded a judge this month to order Chemours to provide more internal data to environmental regulators about the discharge. Cooper's administration said GOP legislators have eliminated at least 70 positions in water quality since 2013.

"It defies belief that Gov. Cooper is still making the false claim that GenX contamination is related to recent state budgets and more shocking that he would reject emergency funds meant to protect the citizens of the Cape Fear region to continue this irrelevant assertion", House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement. House and Senate Republicans have created special committees to address river quality.

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