Environmental reviews to be less costly for businesses

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RALEIGH — Both the N.C. House and Senate voted on a bill that would change a 1970s-era law and eliminate the costly state environmental review process for many development projects that use state money. Most large projects would still be required to go through a similar federal review.

The conference report for the bill passed the House 74-40 and the Senate 41-8 and will be presented to Gov. Pat McCrory.

The state environmental agency now supported the bill after working to pare it back in committee. The agency said in a statement that since the original SEPA law was passed in 1971, “a myriad of federal regulatory requirements have been put in place to protect water, land and air quality, some of which are more stringent than the SEPA requirements.”

The bill also had the support of the N.C. Chamber, which called House Bill 795 “a commonsense approach to modernizing an outdated SEPA law.”

“We can deter frivolous lawsuits and expedite economic growth, all while maintaining strong environmental protections,” chamber president Lewis Ebert wrote in the Raleigh News and Observer.

The environmental lobby is not so sure, saying that the changes in committee did not do enough to maintain environmental protections.