The North Carolina state senate has approved a bill to fire all the members of the states’ regulatory bodies, including all the members of the Utilities Commission, the Coastal Resources Commission, the Environmental Management Commission, and the Wildlife Resources Commission.
The bill, which would affect 131 regulators, will now be considered in the state house. Dumping all the current members of the commissions would allow the newly instated Republican governor, Pat McCrory, to replace them. The Charlotte Observer has more on the plan. As you might imagine, Democrats are livid:
“I think it is a breathtaking and unprecedented power grab — there’s no other way to describe it,” said Senate Minority Whip Josh Stein, D-Wake, adding that removing everyone at once means the panels lose expertise in things such as regulating power companies and coastal issues.
“Look, they won. I understand that Gov. McCrory gets to make appointments,” Stein said, “but their throwing the entire thing out so they can put their folks on is just wrong.”
While trying to deny that it’s a political play, Republican lawmakers basically said that yes, that’s what it is:
The new “administration may see fit to have the people on boards and commissions that, let’s say, are more like minded and who are willing to carry out the desires, if you will, or the philosophy of the new administration,” [Sen. Bill] Rabon told committee members.
The Observer editorialized against the bill on Friday, calling it a “dangerous power grab.” The paper also points out how the bill would affect some of the state’s most important environmental regulatory bodies:
In some instances, it strips requirements that have been seen as protecting the public’s interest. At the Coastal Resources Commission, for instance, the governor would no longer have to appoint at least one person associated with a conservation organization. He would, however, have to appoint two experienced in land development. At the Environmental Management Commission, the governor would no longer have to appoint a doctor with experience in the health effects of environmental pollution; he would still be required to appoint a person who is employed by or recently retired from an industrial manufacturing facility.
Ousting all the regulators could dramatically affect coastal planning. North Carolina is among the states that are already seeing effects from sea level rise. But last year, the legislature decided to pretend climate change doesn’t exist rather than let it interfere in their coastal development plans, voting to bar state scientists from factoring sea level rise into coastal projections.