Legislature Overrides Environmental Bill Veto

Oct 4, 2017

State Senate chamber
Credit Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Republican lawmakers used their super-majorities Wednesday to override another of Governor Roy Cooper's vetoes.

This time, the General Assembly vetoed an environmental bill that provides some money – but not enough, according to Cooper – to address a little-studied chemical discharged into a river.

Cooper vetoed the environmental regulatory bill because it doesn't contain $2.6 million he requested to bolster the Department of Environmental Quality, and it repeals a plastic bag ban on the Outer Banks.

Republicans supporting the override said directing the funds to the Wilmington area would actually help clean up drinking water there, according to the Associated Press. Cooper’s veto, if allowed to stand, would block that work, said GOP Rep. Larry Yarborough of Person County, a primary bill sponsor.

The bill “does not take any protections of our rivers and streams away,” Yarborough said before the House’s 70-44 override vote. “The governor’s veto does nothing to affect that situation.” With no debate, the Senate voted 30-9 for the override.

Cooper sought additional DEQ funds after it was discovered a chemical manufacturer near Fayetteville had been dumping unregulated compounds into the Cape Fear River, contaminating drinking water for more than 200,000 people in the Wilmington area.

But Republican Sen. Michael Lee, who represents New Hanover County, notes the bill does provide $435,000 for an immediate response.

"What we've done in HB 56, tacking this provision on, will provide some immediate relief for testing and funding to try and pull the compounds out of the water."

Cooper has vetoed 12 bills since taking office in January. With Wednesday’s votes, the legislature had overridden eight of them.