The House voted 78-29 today to approve the second reading of a bill that could help development projects receiving public incentives to bypass portions of a required state environmental review.
The bill, introduced by Democratic Sen. R.C. Soles of Tabor City, is a direct response to a May ruling by a Wake Superior Court that Titan America, an international company offered state and local incentives to build a cement plant in New Hanover County, had to supply a full environmental review. Titan and the state argued that the review was not required.
Rep. Phil Haire, a Democrat from Sylva, said the bill had only one purpose: to let big development projects off the hook when it comes to protecting the environment. If the bill is approved, he said, Titan could withdraw its pending permit application in the state, which has been stalled by opposition from environmental groups, and just simply reapply under the new rules.
"I see this as selling our environmental soul for a bag of gold," Haire said during the debate on the House floor Friday. "This is an issue of expediency versus the environment."
The bill’s supporters argued that the required environmental reviews take too much time, and could delay the permitting process so long that a potential employer just takes it’s project to another state, and its jobs with it.
"If we don’t approved this a company will just go to Virginia or Georgia or some other state," said Rep. Bill Owens, Democrat from Elizabeth City. "If we don’t it, we will have a heard time getting businesses to come or expand."
The measure has already passed with overwhelming support in the Senate. A third and final vote on the bill in the House could be held a few minutes after midnight, just before the legislature adjourns for the year.