State bill could affect county landfill

By Jeff Linville -

DOBSON — A veto Thursday by Gov. Roy Cooper will give local officials time to investigate some of the lesser known aspects of a proposed law that could affect Surry County.

House Bill 56 was labeled by some politicians as an environment-friendly move to protect water quality in North Carolina. The bill includes $435,000 to help treat a chemical pollutant called GenX in the Cape Fear River.

GenX is a chemical in use since 2009 to make Teflon and other non-stick products.

In making the veto on Thursday, Cooper called HB 56 “cynical legislation that fails to address the concerns of families in the Cape Fear region and does nothing to protect drinking water statewide going forward.”

“It gives the impression of action while allowing the long-term problem to fester,” the governor continued. “And it unnecessarily rolls back other environmental protections for landfills, river basins, and our beaches.”

County Manager Chris Knopf brought up HB 56 to the Board of Commissioners last week — not because of concerns about GenX or Cape Fear River, but because of another area mentioned in the legislation.

House Bill 56 has an impact on landfills, Knopf said.

For example, one passage states that a local government can only require that all solid waste in its region go to its landfill if one of a handful of conditions is met, such as needing to pay off debt owed for landfill operations or if the government body has a contract already in place with a private service.

Imagine if businesses could just decide to haul their garbage to another county offering a cheaper rate, Knopf said. This could harm the landfill’s operating budget.

The county has a well-run, well-managed landfill that likely will be facing some difficulties if the veto is overridden.

Surry County has a lot of money invested in the landfill already, noted Commissioner Van Tucker. Stokes and Yadkin counties don’t have their own landfills, so they don’t have that money invested, but Surry does.

Commissioner Eddie Harris said that the county benefits from methane recovery at the landfill. The amount of methane collected on a regular basis could provide electricity for up to 500 homes, he said, and it takes garbage to create that methane.

The commissioners all were surprised that they hadn’t been warned about the implications of HB 56 before the bill landed on the governor’s desk.

Tucker asked Knopf if the county board could send a resolution to this area’s local delegates voicing its concerns. Knopf said he could have one drawn up in time for the next meeting, which is in about a week.

That would reach Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-District 90) and Sen. Shirley Randleman (R-District 30) in time for any veto vote.

The GOP, which hold large majorities in the state House and Senate, must decide whether to try to override the veto when the General Assembly reconvenes in early October.

The Aug. 31 vote in the House wasn’t so one-sided as to already have reached the veto threshold needed, but more than a dozen members were absent that day.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that environmental advocates said 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.

By Jeff Linville

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

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