Environmental commission adopts permanent wetlands protections

Millions of acres of North Carolina wetlands are now protected under permanent wetlands rules adopted by North Carolina’s Environmental Management Commission. Despite last-minute pressure from industry representatives, and an attempt to defer the decision to March, the EMC the permitting rules were adopted by an 8-6 vote.

“We are grateful for those on the EMC that voted to pass important permitting protections for wetlands in North Carolina,” said Sound Rivers Executive Director Heather Deck. “Communities along the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico rivers have suffered greatly from flooding — including during non-extreme event flooding that’s happening more frequently.”

Last year, the state adopted temporary rules after a Trump Administration revision of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule greatly reduced the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act. After the Trump EPA rule was vacated, the state adopted the temporary rule to fill in the gap in protection for the million-plus acres of wetlands, and provide a clearer path to permitting for any activity potentially impacting wetlands. With the state’s temporary rules set to expire in March and the Biden administration EPA working on its own rules that will be several months in the making, NCEMC has stepped in to provide permanent rules.

It’s a good start, but more needs to be done, according to Heather.

“North Carolina must continue to move forward in a way that prioritizes protections of remaining wetlands and builds back natural infrastructure,” she said.

Thank you to everyone who wrote to North Carolina’s Environmental Management Commission, asking the commission to adopt permanent wetlands permitting rules. Your voice mattered!