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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
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The Regulatory Reform Act of 2015 

The Regulatory Reform Act of 2015 (S.L. 2015 – 286) allows the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, to focus its resources on the environmental issues that matter most and improves environmental protection.
 

 
DEQ worked with the General Assembly to address concerns about provisions in early drafts of the legislation to ensure that the final bill would preserve environmental protections. The final bill included our recommendations and became a law that DEQ fully supports.
 
The new law encourages compliance from the regulated community, eliminates redundancies in the law, and fosters economic development while upholding environmental protection.
 
The law includes provisions that encourage companies to report pollution they are currently not required to report, help clean up previously contaminated sites and restore them to usable land, allow for more inspections at landfills, re-direct resources for new air quality monitoring requirements, and creates efficiencies by aligning North Carolina requirements and federal regulations that previously overlapped.
 
Encourages environmental compliance
The law’s audit provision will replace the previous administrations’ longstanding policy for self-reported violations with a more environmentally protective statute that encourages companies to perform voluntary internal environmental audits of their compliance programs and management systems.
 
Under the new law, North Carolina joins 20 other states in seeking federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval to grant companies legal protection in very limited instances when certain issues are discovered during a self-audit of their facility. The immunity clause is modeled after the EPA’s own policy, which is designed to enhance protection of human health and the environment by encouraging regulated entities to voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, and quickly correct violations of environmental requirements. The immunity clause is written so narrowly that very few, if any, circumstances would trigger it and does not apply to criminal investigation or prosecution. Companies would only receive immunity if the issue is promptly corrected.
 
Builds on success
The law expands the use of a risk-based cleanup procedure that has been used successfully in the past for the dry cleaning and underground storage tank industries. Currently, there are hundreds of contaminated facilities across the state for which no cleanup activities are underway. The process for turning once-polluted commercial sites into usable property is streamlined under the new law. Formerly contaminated sites that are determined to be low-risk can be approved for safe and efficient cleanup under the guidance of environmental consultants.
 
Creates efficiency
The law puts into effect a provision that will make government more efficient in regulating landfills and enhances state compliance review. Under a new life of site permitting system, certain landfills will now be subject to random review at any time rather than one scheduled review every five years. DEQ will thoroughly review each landfill’s history over the previous five years before issuing the life of site permits that allow for random reviews.
 
Protects air quality
The law recognizes the regional nature of certain pollutants such as ozone where the EPA relies on fewer monitors to assess air quality. In addition, because North Carolina recently achieved compliance with all national ambient air quality standards throughout the state, fewer monitors are now required under federal law. The Regulatory Reform Act allows the department to take this success into account as it plans for new federal requirements.
 
Monitors can now be shifted to areas where they are needed to comply with new federal requirements for short-term pollutants such as sulfur dioxide. The ability to redeploy monitors will also allow North Carolina to verify that it meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s new ozone standard as expected in 2017.
 
Provides certainty
The law improves environmental protection by removing uncertainty about overlapping state and federal Clean Water Act requirements by establishing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the sole authority on intermittent streams near surface water sources.

To read the Regulatory Reform Act of 2015, click here.

 

 

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