Political Notebook: Cooper joins governors urging Congress to protect drinking water

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 23, 2019

Gov. Roy Cooper has joined 15 other governors urging Congress to do more to protect drinking water in and around military bases.

In a letter, the governors urged both parties to address toxic per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) with strong measures.

“Safe drinking water must be a priority, which is why I strongly urge Congress to address dangerous contaminants like PFAS,” Cooper said. “States need the federal government to regulate these chemical compounds to protect drinking water for all North Carolinians, especially those who live in and around military installations.”

The letter asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set an enforceable drinking water standard and list PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances.

 “At current and former military bases across the country, firefighting foam containing PFAS has been in use for many years to meet FAA firefighting standards at FAA-controlled airports, and by extension at military airports,” the letter says. “In many of these locations, PFAS have leached into groundwater, surface water, and nearby private wells used for drinking water.”

The Government Accountability Office says there are at least 401 military facilities with known or suspected PFAS contamination.

Signing the letter were Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan; John Carney of Delaware; Charlie Baker of Massachusetts; Tim Walz of Minnesota; Chris Sununu of New Hampshire; Phil Murphy of New Jersey; Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico; Andrew Cuomo of New York; Mike DeWine of Ohio; Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania; Phil Scott of Vermont; Ralph Northam of Virginia; Jay Inslee of Washington; and Tony Evers of Wisconsin.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to which the letter was sent.

North Carolina schools also got environmental groups’ attention in March when the group Get the Lead Out gave a failing grade to North Carolina and 21 other states in addressing lead contamination. The report says that 41 out of 89 schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district had taps with lead exceeding 15 parts per billion.

Rep. Harry Warren, R-76, filed a bill in March titled “Ensure Safety of School Drinking Water” that requires schools and child care facilities to test drinking water for the presence of lead. The bill hasn’t advanced out of the N.C. House.

Cooper vetoes Regulatory Reform Act

Cooper on Friday vetoed the Regulatory Reform Act of 2019, which would have amended several state laws regulating agriculture, energy, the environment and natural resources.

In his veto statement, Cooper said, “Provisions in the legislation allowing trash receptacles in exit corridors could pose a fire safety risk for residents and emergency responders. Also, this legislation could allow septic system permits to be issued that circumvent state septic system rules which can hurt public health and threaten clean water. Both of these provisions threaten public health and safety.”

Reps. Harry Warren, R-76, Julia Howard, R-77, and Larry Pittman, R-83, voted in favor of the bill. Sen. Carl Ford, R-33, voted for the bill as well.