Gov. Roy Cooper said on Thursday morning that he will veto an environmental bill that would have repealed the plastic bag ban on the Outer Banks.
House Bill 56, which was passed by the General Assembly in late August, included a more prominent plan to give $435,000 to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington to deal with a pollutant called GenX, which was recently identified in the Cape Fear River waters.
But it also included a repeal to the current Plastic Bag Ban, which took up just one line of the bill that reads “SECTION 10.(a) Part 2G of Article 9 of Chapter 130A of the General Statutes is repealed.”
In a statement explaining the veto, Governor Cooper focused on the funds for GenX, noting that the $435,000 allotted was far short of the requested $2.6 million to address the problem.
“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. That is why I am vetoing it,” said Cooper.
Cooper also noted that the bill “…provides no resources to the state agencies charged with protecting drinking water and preventing illegal chemicals from being discharged into our rivers. It gives the impression of action while allowing the long-term problem to fester. And it unnecessarily rolls back other environmental protections for landfills, river basins, and our beaches.”
The 2009 plastic bag repeal ban was the brainchild of then-Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight of Dare County as a way to cut down on litter, as well as the deaths of offshore sea turtles which often pay a visit to the Outer Banks to lay their eggs along the seashore. (When in the water, plastic bags look a lot like jellyfish, and are therefore commonly mistaken as food by sea turtles and other marine life.)
The ban requires stores to use paper bags, and also to provide a $.05 refund per bag for customers who bring their own reusable bags to an individual store.
The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association supported the repeal, but local organizations including the Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) and the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce have both publicly spoken out against repealing the ban.
The full statement by Gov. Cooper can be seen at https://medium.com/@NC_Governor/protecting-our-drinking-water-817cc1a98d77