Protect North Carolina from hazardous waste disasters.

Does everyone recall the infamous "Environmental Quality" hazardous waste fire in Apex (NC) last fall? Over 10,000 residents were evacuated, and for days no one knew precisely to what chemicals or health hazards they and their community were being exposed.

That disaster pointed out the gaping holes which remain in North Carolina's hazardous waste regulatory setup. As a direct result, Governor Easley appointed a task force to study ways to prevent or reduce the severity of such incidents in the future. In December, they reported a strong set of proposals to fill the gaps in our state's laws.

Last night, I moved—and my colleagues on the Winston-Salem City Council unanimously agreed—to endorse those recommendations. We're calling on our General Assembly to adopt legislation to prevent future debacles like the one suffered by Apex.

Some of the key recommendations of that panel are the following:
· Require financial assurances (e.g., bonding) by the owners of hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities, to pay for off-site cleanup costs and off-site monitoring of any waste releases from their facilities.
· Require secure off-site storage of duplicate current records regarding all hazardous materials held on-site—so that this critical information will be immediately available to emergency responders in the event of a fire or other disaster.
· Require that such facilities maintain 24/7 site security through properly trained personnel or adequate electronic security.
· Require meaningful notice to and involvement by local governments and site neighbors in the review of applications for new facilities.
· Develop regulations to guarantee adequate security for "10-day transfer sites" which currently can temporarily store an unlimited number of containers from multiple waste streams with only minimal regulation.

Legislation (House Bill 36) has been introduced, with 26 sponsors and co-sponsors, to implement the hazardous waste task force's recommendations. I encourage everyone to contact your state legislators in support of this important proposal—because the General Assembly has an unfortunate tendency from time to time to let critical actions on important public health matters die without final action.

I've paid particular attention to issues of hazardous waste since my service as a member of the N.C. Emergency Response Commission (1987-92). At that time, we were starting the process of implementing new federal mandates from the Emergency Response and Community Right to Know Act. That important Congressional action followed the Bhopal catastrophe, which involved massive human loss of life and severe injuries resulting from a pesticide manufacturing plant disaster in India.

I was especially involved in helping to set up community right-to-know efforts in our state. Today, we have mechanisms such as the Toxic Release Inventory to help inform the public on chemical hazards in our communities. Of course, the Bush Administration is now in the process of trying to cut back on federally-mandated information access, making our state efforts more critical than ever.

As Lieutenant Governor, I would use the "bully pulpit" of my role as President of the Senate and statewide elected leader to push for effective action on issues like this one.

I believe that my experience and knowledge of environmental laws and enforcement make me especially able to lead efforts like this one effectively. After all, any candidate can "talk green" during an election campaign. The true test is, do you have the experience and commitment to turn that talk into effective action? How have you shown from your work so far that you mean what you say in this arena?

Those are questions that I am happy to discuss during this campaign.

Dan
www.danbesse2008.org
Dan Besse
Democrat for Lieutenant Governor

Comments

Thanks for the update.

Be prepared for the free-market fundamentalists to declare this kind of planning ahead to be nothing more than a communist plot. They'll say private business can and should be free to do anything they want and that the danged gummint shouldn't be interfering in their ability to make more money.

Just saying.

A

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Anglico is correct in that

The freemars will be howling that the government already has laws in place to take care of this kind of incident. Why overburden them with more? EQ would not have been in that mess (and the subsequent evac if they had followed simple common sense). I've spent the last nine years working in the hazardous waste industry (4 years supporting the EPA) and I am one of the few in the industry that thinks the EPA doesn't go far enough in some areas. Cutbacks in enforcement at the federal level and leaving the burden of inspections to the states (and NCDENR does not have enough RCRA {hazardous waste}inspectors to hit eveyone as often as required)has done serious damage to our ability to police those who are not doing their job correctly or are in imminent danger of causing another Apex/EQ incident.

A serious problem is that the current regime looks the other way when it comes to the environment. They go on as if the water that they will drink and the air that they will breathe and the food that they will eat will somehow be magically pure. Enforce the laws and attach amendments or enact new laws (as the poster suggests).

Great post.

Who are the key players?

Dan,

Are there any folks in the legislature that you think should be prioritized for correspondence on this issue?

The co-sponsors should be lauded, of course.

Thanks for working for the public's right to know on this issue and for letting folks know your positions as a Lt. Governor candidate.

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key players?

Good question. In general, my recommendation is usually to contact your own direct representative(s) first. He or she is the one most likely to feel obligated to listen to you.

Next, I look at the leadership of the committee which has or is most likely to get jurisdiction of the bill. In this case, it's the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee. (It's chaired this year by Rep. Lucy Allen (D-Franklin), who is usually good on environmental issues.) If your county is represented by her of any of the committee vice chairs, then that would be another priority contact for you. Incidentally, part of the good news in this case is that three of the vice chairs of that committee (Pricey Harrison, Carolyn Justice, and Alice Underhill) are already among the co-sponsors of the bill. If you spot a committee member from your county who is not a co-sponsor of the bill, I'd contact her or him and encourage them to sign on.

These details are most easily accessible through www.ncleg.net. We can do the same analysis on the House Bill 36's "companion" (identical) bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 190.

Thanks for asking.

Dan Besse
Democrat for Lieutenant Governor

Dan Besse

Great Post, Dan

I've met you a couple of times in Winston-Salem, and I tell all the folks that I can about your Lt Gov run. It's more than high-time we had someone of your passion and intellect to lead the charge in protecting the environment, and we need to give you as big of a platform as possible to achieve that mission.

I think you are the guy to make the case to the masses---I think folks in NC do tend to believe in magic sometimes, as another poster just alluded in response. They need someone to wake them up to reality and protect them.

Thanks for fighting the good fight. This one, not Iraq or the "war on terror," is the fight for the ages.

War is over if you want it.

Thanks very much. I

Thanks very much. I appreciate the good word.

Dan Besse
Democrat for Lieutenant Governor

Dan Besse