The state Senate agreed Monday evening to do away with North Carolina’s recently-created electronics recycling program and a related ban on computers, televisions and printers in local landfills.
Eliminating the recycling effort was incorporated into the Senate Republicans’ annual “regulatory reform” bill, which was approved in a largely 30-15 party-line vote and now goes to the House. House Republicans are pushing their own regulatory changes.
The Senate GOP measure also halts annual motor vehicle emissions testing in eight counties, places new restrictions on rule-making by government agencies believed to be costly financially and eliminates or consolidates environmental reports.
The bill’s authors say the 2010 law creating the recycling program isn’t working because there’s a lack of recyclers in the state to collect old TVs and computers and there’s a broader market downturn for such old electronics.
Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, a bill co-author, showed to colleagues on the floor photographs of large piles of televisions she described as being held by counties that can’t locate recyclers to take them. It would be better to put the TVs in lined landfills, she said, rather than letting them get rained on and the chemicals inside them ultimately seeping into the groundwater.
Counties are “having a real problem and they’ve asked us to do something about it,” Wade said.
Environmental groups criticized the proposed program repeal, calling it a setback for the electronic recycling industry in the state, which has created hundreds of jobs. About 19,000 tons of electronics equipment is recycled annually in North Carolina, according to the state Sierra Club.
“Eliminating our recycling program and allowing electronics to be landfilled or incinerated takes away the easy access North Carolinians have to safely dispose of electronics while putting toxic chemicals in landfills,” club spokesman Dustin Chicurel-Bayard said in a release.
The bill also would reduce the number of counties where vehicles must get annual emissions testing from 48 to 40. Counties removed from the emissions list would be Burke, Cleveland, Robeson, Rutherford, Stanly, Stokes, Surry and Wilkes. The reductions wouldn’t take effect until July 2017 at the earliest. A state environmental report concluded the number of counties can be decreased and the state can still meet expectant federal ozone standards.
The bill also prevent government agencies from creating rules to implement laws that would cause $100 million in aggregate costs over a five-year period to anyone affected by the rules. Restrictions would be placed on rules for those that generate more than $10 million over five years, and automatically would give legislators the opportunity to cancel them.
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, criticized the rule-making proposals as adding another layer of legislative review to carry out laws on topics about which legislators may lack expertise. But Sen. Andy Wells, R-Catawba, said legislators should get involved when costs become large.