Sound Rivers joins Earth Day press conference introducing new legislation

Rep. Julie von Haefen (HD 36) joined Rep. Graig Meyer (HD 50) to introduce environmental legislation on Earth Day 2021.

RALEIGH — Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Jill Howell was on hand at an Earth Day press conference at the state capital, where legislation demanding environmental protections and investments in renewable energy was introduced.

On April 22, Howell joined members of the North Carolina General Assembly, Rep. Julie von Haefen (HD 36) and Rep. Graig Meyer (HD 50), as they discussed the introduction of several bills demonstrating House Democrats’ plan to protect clean air and water, combat the pollution of our water supplies and invest in renewable energy infrastructure across the state.

Watch the press conference coverage here. (Go to the 6-minute, 7-second mark to hear our Pamlico-Tar Riverkeepers’ comments!)

Emphasizing widespread support for environmental protections, von Haefen said, “Everything in our natural world is connected. These are issues that unite us all. …  Nothing is more important than ensuring our air is safe to breathe and our water is safe to drink. That’s why we’ve filed bills to protect our air quality, to prevent carcinogens from contaminating our drinking water, to prepare our state’s infrastructure for the inevitable challenges ahead caused by climate change and to guarantee that our green spaces and waterways are protected for future generations to enjoy.”

Representing Sound Rivers, Howell expressed support for the policies introduced by state legislators: “We’re grateful to see representatives prioritizing environmental protection and addressing climate change. Strong leadership at the state level is critical to protecting North Carolina’s water resources, which are vital to the health and wellbeing of communities across the state.”

Regarding pollution in our water supplies, Dustin Ingalls, director of strategic communications for the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, said, “According to an (East Carolina University) toxicology expert, only two other states have more residents exposed to PFAS. First in Flight but third in PFAS poisonings is not where we want to be.” He continued, “These ‘forever chemicals,’ including Chemours’ GenX, are linked to rare cancers, hypothyroidism and even birth defects. Despite that knowledge, legislative leadership has protected polluters instead of people. We must make polluters pay, ban PFAS manufacturing, and set a healthy drinking water standard.”

Bringing attention to the need for new infrastructure programs that address the realities of climate change, Meyer said, “Now is the time to make ambitious investments in clean energy infrastructure in North Carolina. … The American Jobs Plan is funneling millions of dollars and resources into our state to repair our water infrastructure and to make strong investments in clean energy programs. Our legislature must meet this moment with the vision and energy that it deserves.”

Carson Harkrader, CEO of Carolina Solar Energy, proposed that North Carolina has started looking backward instead of forward when it comes to clean energy.

“North Carolina ranks third in the nation for solar energy production because of forward-thinking policies put in place by our state legislature and regulators in past years, but unfortunately, we are now quickly falling behind. Many of our state’s largest employers, municipalities, and universities have made commitments to source clean energy which are very challenging to fulfill under current state law,” she said. “We are competing with other states that have significantly better clean energy policies for communities and for large employers who want to source clean energy. North Carolina will fall behind in our ability to attract and retain large employers if the legislature does not improve our policies for clean energy this year.”

Meyer concluded the press conference by saying, “Confronting pollution and climate change can feel overwhelming, but we cannot let our fears lead to inaction. … It’s our expectation that climate concerns will be central to our discussions as we negotiate both the state budget and other significant pieces of legislation this spring.”

The full press conference can be viewed in two segments: Part 1 and Part 2.