Even as legislation to override local regulations and seize municipal water systems teeters on the brink of passing the NC General Assembly, local governments, with the support of local residents to whom they are accountable, are standing up to protect local decision-making on water and environmental concerns.
Senate Bill 612, which mandates that local ordinances cannot be more restrictive than state or federal regulations, is headed to the House after passing in the Senate. House Bill 488, which forcibly removes control of the Asheville drinking water system from Asheville’s elected officials with no compensation, and puts it in the hands of an unelected regional authority, awaits the Governor’s signature. How are local governments responding?
In Anson County last night, county commissioners unanimously approved a moratorium and ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing in the county! Expect more news on this inspiring story of local organizing and action soon. Anson County’s ordinance becomes the second anti-fracking ordinance in the state (the other belongs to the town of Creedmoor).
Meanwhile, in Asheville, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution to legally challenge the water merger mandated by House Bill 488. Citizens in the City and County have been strongly against the merger, which places the water system in the hands of an unelected body; in November 86% of residents in the City voted “no” to such a merger. Clearly listening to the public outcry, and concerned about the huge impacts seizure of the water system could have on the local economy, City leaders are looking to the courts. “In the larger question, taking without compensation, forcing change onto the local system that nobody asked for and the customers haven’t asked for, the citizens voted against by a substantial majority, it’s wrong,” said Councilman Cecil Bothwell. “I believe we have a pretty good legal basis.”