SB 638, the NC Farm Act of 2013, contains a provision that would put into statute the definition of wetlands and prohibit DENR from requiring permits for isolated wetlands that are not “waters of the U.S.” (and, thus, are not required to be permitted under the Clean Water Act).
The NC Environmental Management Commission adopted an isolated wetlands rule in 2003 – over the objections of the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA) – requiring a permit for activities in isolated wetlands and waters after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling stopped the Corps from requiring permits. The NC rule clearly exceeds federal requirements.
In a 2011 report required by the passage of S 781 (Regulatory Reform Act of 2011) DENR lists the Isolated Wetland Rule [15A NCAC 2H .1300] as not having a federal analog, but being necessary because: “North Carolina rules allow more flexibility than provided by federal regulations”. NCHBA raised the issue to legislators of how a rule could possibly provide more flexibility than federal regulations when there is no corresponding federal regulation! NCHBA (and many legislators) believe that removing DENR’s ability to require permits for isolated wetlands expresses the intent of the General Assembly as to regulatory reform objectives established in the 2011-12 Session and carried on in this session. However, this section of SB 638 is coming under fire by…who else…the environmental groups.
NCHBA and REBIC are trying to make the case to our State Representatives that isolated wetlands do not require a DENR permit, and encouraging them to pass SB 638 with the isolated wetland language included. If you have a story that can help us, please e-mail Steven Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lisa Martin at email@example.com, or call them at 800-662-7129. S 638 received a favorable report in the House Agriculture Committee last week and moves on to House Judiciary B Committee this Wednesday. The environmental groups will surely be putting the heat and pressure on, so please be ready to share your stories and to contact legislators.