It’s an old trick: If you’re going to make news but don’t want it to get much attention, do it late on a Friday. It’s when the media and public are, arguably, paying the least attention. Also, don’t tell anyone you’re doing it, even if it’s big news. Also, do a bunch of other things at the same time and hope it gets lost in the shuffle.
Gov. Pat McCrory pulled off that trifecta late Friday when he signed into law one of the most controversial pieces of legislation to emerge from this year’s legislative session: House Bill 765, the Regulatory Reform Act, which critics have long dubbed the Polluter Protection Act. After thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls asking him to veto the measure, McCrory signed it Friday. He signed six other bills at the same time, and made no public comment about the regulatory bill. The only public signing was for a bill helping Cherokee Indians. McCrory’s office mentioned in one sentence that he had signed the environmental bill after seven paragraphs and three photos about the Cherokee bill.
The 71-page legislation allows polluters to avoid state penalties as long as they report their violations. It also reduces the number of air quality monitors in the state and pulls back protections for streams that dry up in the summer. A number of environmental groups called it the most egregious rollback of environmental protections since McCrory was elected.
“We are greatly disappointed with Governor McCrory’s actions today. We had shared our concerns with the Governor, emphasizing that nothing in this bill was essential but much was harmful. We’re saddened to see our leadership give a green light to such egregious, anti-environmental actions,” Carrie Clark, executive director of the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, said in a release this morning.
The proposal was extremely controversial and the focus of great public attention for weeks. The least the governor could do would have been to take ownership of what he was doing and defend it. If it’s such a great bill, why not trumpet the accomplishment? -- Taylor Batten