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Regulatory Reform Act of 2012 eases environmental permitting process for industry

The Regulatory Reform Act of 2012, which will likely be voted on during the General Assembly’s current short session, makes further changes to the way North Carolina creates and enforces environmental regulations.

As WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports, Senate Bill 810 continues the work of Senate Bill 781 – known as The Regulatory Reform Act of 2011. 

The Regulatory Reform Act of 2012 takes another step toward a customer service-oriented permitting process for industry, says Primary Sponsor Senator David Rouzer.  The bill requires permitting agencies to track and report the time it takes to complete each step.  Rouzer says that kind of audit will help legislators figure out where the delays occur in obtaining permits.   And legislators, he says, have gone overboard in the last 10 to 20 years with unnecessary and costly environmental protections – albeit well-intentioned ones. 

“We’re just trying to create a stronger balance.  We want to protect the environment.  We want to do what’s right.  But we also need to have a framework in place that’s user-friendly.”

Dan Conrad, legislative counsel for the North Carolina Conservation Network, an environmental advocacy group, says the bill is anything but equitable when it comes to weighing business considerations against environmental protections. 

“It’s not really showing a balanced approach.  It’s basically a wish list for industry and takes that stance where regulation and the economy have to be separate from one another.”  

But the existing layers of regulations are a serious impediment, says Rouzer, to a healthy business atmosphere in the state.  Conrad challenges that assertion by pointing to North Carolina’s consistent ratings in prominent financial publications as one of the best places to do business.  Rouzer says he expects to see the bill passed by the end of the short session.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.