Gov. Cooper vetoes bill that includes plastic bag ban repeal

By on September 21, 2017

The General Assembly will likely take up an override on Oct. 4.

The ban on single-use, thin plastic shopping bags by most retailers on the Outer Banks will continue, for now, after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper issued a veto Thursday of a bill passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in August that would amend state environmental laws.

House Bill 56 had stalled out in June after the House and Senate passed widely different versions and had been unable to reach a compromise.

The bill would roll back a 2009 ban that initially blocked larger retailers on the barrier islands from Corolla to Ocracoke from using the bags, then expanded the prohibition to all businesses.

Championed by former state Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, the law requires retailers to offer recyclable paper bags and to give a rebate or other incentive for each re-usable bag a customer uses.

The main spark rekindling HB 56 last month by the General Assmebly was the GenX controversy on the Cape Fear River, and a request by Gov. Roy Cooper for funds to expand study of the chemical.

GenX is an unregulated compound used to make Teflon and other products, and has been found in the main water supply for the City of Wilmington.

Lawmakers approved $435,000 to be split between the Wilmington-area water utility and UNC Wilmington for studies.

Cooper had requested $2.6 million for the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Health and Human Services to monitor GenX and study the health effects of long-term exposure.

“Clean water is critical for our health and our economy and this legislation fails to appropriate any needed funds to the departments in state government charged with setting standards and enforcing laws to prevent illegal chemical discharges into rivers used for drinking water,” Cooper said in a statement announcing the veto.

“It gives the impression of action while allowing the long-term problem to fester. And it unnecessarily rolls back other environmental protections for landfills, river basins, and our beaches,” Cooper said.

“Instead this legislation diverts needed resources to the local utility and UNC-Wilmington and eliminates a local plastic bag ban supported by local governments and businesses that was passed to protect the environment in the Outer Banks,” according to Cooper.

Senate leaders focused on the GenX issue in their response.

“I am troubled that the governor would place politics ahead of public safety, and prioritize bureaucracy over results,” said Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover. “He is now on record for rejecting the only proposal that will actually help clean our drinking water in the lower Cape Fear region.”

“Shame on Gov. Cooper for vetoing a local solution, developed by this region’s local representatives, to immediately improve water quality for their constituents, neighbors and own families – simply because it did not achieve his preferred objective of growing a bureaucracy that has thus far failed to resolve this crisis,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.

A provision to roll back the bag ban was added to the bill earlier this summer by Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, after a separate repeal measure introduced by Rep. Beverly Boswell, R-Dare, failed to advance in the state House.

Cook and Boswell voted in favor of the bill on Aug. 30. Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, whose district includes Corolla, has opposed the repeal since it was originally introduced in the spring, but missed the vote because of a previously scheduled personal appointment.

The Dare County Board of Commissioners and the town boards of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head, along with The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, passed resolutions or sent letters to Boswell and Cook opposing the repeal.

Citizen and small business opposition to the rollback focused mostly on lobbying Cook and Boswell, rather than taking on the larger chains with locations in the area who remained silent on the issue.

The repeal effort had the support of the N.C. Retail Merchants Association and several conservative-leaning statewide groups.

Boswell and Cook did not mention the bag ban repeal in written statements to the Voice on Thursday.

“I am extremely disappointed in Gov. Cooper’s decision to veto a bill that provides nearly a half-million dollars to begin dealing with the pollutant GenX,” Boswell said.

“Once again, Gov. Cooper is turning his back on actually addressing the immediate problem of GenX in the drinking water of the Cape Fear region,” Cook said. “Gov. Cooper needs to focus less on growing the government bureaucracy that has thus far failed to resolve this crisis, and more towards seeking solutions that ensures clean, safe drinking water.”

Steinburg said that although he would have opposed the ban if he had been in the General Assembly in 2009, he is willing to support it because its the will of the people in Currituck, Dare and Hyde counties.

He noted that nearly all correspondence to his office has been in opposition to a repeal, and has come from conservative, liberal and unaffiliated residents and business owners.

“I’m business-friendly and I understand the small savings that the stores would see, but we do not make plastic bags in North Carolina,” Steinburg said.

“We have KapStone in Roanoke Rapids, right here in northeastern North Carolina, that makes the material for paper bags and employs 425 people with wages well above the norm for the area. That means a lot to the region as a whole, including our local timber industry.”

“The people of the Outer Banks see it as a source of pride and can say ‘Our beaches are so clean we don’t even use plastic bags’,” Steinburg said. “I think the modest cost that retailers have to absorb is more than made up for by the record numbers of tourism and the business tourism generates.”

But Steinburg said that because of his role on a special legislative committee on GenX, he is wrestling with how to vote on an override.

“The bag ban should have been a stand-alone issue. I’ve told people that I’ll stand up for the bag ban,” Steinburg said. “I never would have voted for repealing the ban as a separate bill.”

“My concern is the GenX problem, and being on the committee does make it difficult. I’m not trading one thing or the other. With or without this bill,we will get the GenX situation fixed,” he said.

“But we are talking about the safety of drinking water and health for citizens in the Wilmington-area,” Steinburg said.

Another section in the bill would create a coastal storm damage mitigation fund to pay for beach re-nourishment. The fund would have several sources of revenue, although none are specifically designated, and local governments would have to match state funds for a project.

“If we override the veto, the fund is also authorized to go towards the construction of terminal groins and jetties,” Boswell said. “Several local organizations from my district have been advocating the General Assembly to establish this type of fund for years and this bill does that.”

Boswell stated that North Carolina’s beaches and inlets generated approximately $3 billion dollars in direct economic value and over 39,000 direct jobs.

“Preserving the single greatest amenity and attraction in the region, the beaches, is essential to the state economy,” Boswell said.

“Regardless of the governor placing politics ahead of public safety, I will continue to work closely with my legislative colleagues as we seek common sense ways to keep North Carolina’s water clean and a healthy economy,” she said.

“Without hesitation, I encourage my Senate colleagues to override his veto,” Cook said.

The General Assembly is scheduled to return to Raleigh for another short session on Oct. 4 where they will likely take up the veto override.

If the ban is repealed by state lawmakers, an option to implement a ban on the local level is not available.

Dare County Manager Bobby Outten reported to county commissioners on Monday that state statute prohibits Dare County from even holding a referendum on implementing a ban.





  • cbruce41

    Wow….just wow. Roy has my vote andBoswell and Cook lost mine long ago when they originally sponsored the bag repeal! Personally, I call this a win for the people!!

    Thursday, Sep 21 @ 3:26 pm
  • chaser

    Bev the bag lady cant defend her bill?

    Thursday, Sep 21 @ 3:30 pm
  • Really?

    The veto will be overturned. Lets see how many goons still care more about turtles lives and plastic bags over children potentially being harmed by GenX. Comment away tree huggers!

    Thursday, Sep 21 @ 4:07 pm
  • Czarina

    Thanks Governor! SHAME on Boswell and Cook for adding this unwanted bag ban onto an important bill. You both should be ashamed, but instead are enjoying the additions to your bank accounts.

    Thursday, Sep 21 @ 4:15 pm
  • Seal


    Thursday, Sep 21 @ 4:16 pm
  • Stephen

    Good for Cooper. Now we have to defeat
    Boswell the next time she is up for election. She does NOT represent the Outer Banks, but rather the deep pockets that put her up to such a bd legislative proposal.

    Thursday, Sep 21 @ 4:47 pm
  • Luminous

    Thank you Gov. Roy, and shame on Barbara Bosworth and other GOP members who put campaign contributions from business interests ahead of NC and Dare County constituents. This is a local issue and should be decided locally.

    Thursday, Sep 21 @ 5:31 pm
  • Carter McKay

    Let’s hope Steinberg is shown the door and handed his hat! If Steinberg truly thought the bag ban was a win for the environment, he would have sponsored legislation amending the existing law to include all counties in North Carolina! Just another disingenuous politician courting votes! Pathetic!!!

    Thursday, Sep 21 @ 9:40 pm
  • Thinking About the Future

    Check out some more details on why Cooper vetoed this bill:

    Friday, Sep 22 @ 7:58 am
  • William Paul Bailey

    I like the paper bags. Glad Cooper vetoed the bill as this is a local issue and should be decided in the community.

    Friday, Sep 22 @ 8:00 am
  • murray parker

    I just love these plastic bag pictures that keep turning up! Going to start me a old fashion photo album of them. Guess I’ll ask a tourist to let me have some of the many plastic bags that they bring their groceries here in so that I can make a cover for my album.

    Friday, Sep 22 @ 8:37 am
  • southerly neighbor

    cooper wanted more $ for the gen x issue. it was republican controlled legislature that denied that extra money by only offering less than 1/4 the amount asked for which would have to be split by public utilities and UNCW. it is written here plain as day. twisting words might work for the donald’s cabinet and fool some but most of us can see through the b.s.
    plus boswell, you are no coastal geologist. jetties and groins are only as good as the dredging allows, keep throwing millions at a process as old as time, the movement of sand.

    Friday, Sep 22 @ 9:10 am
  • Jim

    Why do politicians create bills that are just amalgamated gobbledygook?? The entire legislative process and subsequent analysis would be far more efficient and intelligible if elected officials would let each issue stand on its own. As a Hatteras Island resident, I am relieved that the bag ban repeal was vetoed, but it should never have been an add-on to this larger bill in the first place. It’s no wonder no one trusts politicians.

    Friday, Sep 22 @ 9:29 am
  • Davis

    Cook and Bag Lady Boswell care nothing about their constituents, just the huge campaign contributions from the polluters.

    I must say, I usually don’t align with Steinburg politically, but the fact that he actually CARES what his constituents think means a lot. I have to respect him for that.

    Friday, Sep 22 @ 9:42 am
  • Spoony Rae

    Wonder what the official position of all the elected boards were before the legislation was originally introduced?

    Friday, Sep 22 @ 1:58 pm
  • Paul Cherry

    I agree with Carter. Mr. Steinburg needs to be shown to the door. He has been very adamant to keeping the plastic bag ban in place BUT now he says he would of voted against the establishment of the law in 2009. AND that he is supposedly helping to keep the ban in place, even though he is on the record saying he would of voted no to the establishment of the law back in 2009. I don’t think he even know what his position is. This man is too volatile. He is distinctly showing that he has no principals or values.

    Friday, Sep 22 @ 2:03 pm
  • Seaweed

    @Spoony Rae…local govt leaders knew nothing about Basnight’s bag ban bill until he had it ready and it was a done deal. He called all of them into his restaurant and told them what HE was going to do, and they all cowered down and kept quiet. FACT.

    Friday, Sep 22 @ 4:31 pm
  • Son of a beach

    Really? What exactly is the harm to children that GenX poses? I’m just trying to understand your point of view.

    Friday, Sep 22 @ 5:10 pm
  • Sara Davis

    In reading these comments, I’m assuming that those of you who are commenting on this page are the ones who never or rarely ever go for walks on the beach……. To everyone who is commenting on this page, please ask yourself, when was the last time you walked at least a mile on the beach? If you can’t remember, then don’t bother adding your two cents. I walk miles on our beaches several times in a week and I always take a PLASTIC garbage bag with me to pick up trash. While on my walks, I’m always picking up PLASTIC BAGS. Imagine that. I thought it wasn’t supposed to be possible since we are the only area in the state that has a plastic bag ban….. To be very clear, I don’t like seeing these bags or ANY LITTERING on our beautiful beaches. But this ban doesn’t work. Plus there is still a lot of other debris items on the beach and again what do I use to detain the trash before I dump it into the dumpster, that’s right, PLASTIC GARBAGE BAGS.

    We should be demanding our local elected officials to initiate as well as FUND a program to pick up trash on the beaches, DAILY. None of this once a year beach sweep crap of making you feel good BS, or for some politician to get a picture of them picking up trash. It needs to be done DAILY. I see public works staff in pick up trucks from the Towns of Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills picking up trash at beach accesses daily. Why can’t they pick up trash on our beaches as well???? It’s amazing that this hasn’t been suggested or I haven’t read where it was suggested. If our politicians really wanted to find a fix they would be doing this rather than pointing fingers at a law that is not effective.

    Friday, Sep 22 @ 6:01 pm
  • Candy Cane

    Plastic Bags are evil, yet plastic spoons, can rings, water bottles, 2 liter bottles, plastic wraps for products, etc are all fine and dandy.

    Simpletons will wrap their do-gooding around one meaningless idea to make themselves feel better and then poke their chest out in honor of being meaningless.

    You people do realize whether plastic or paper, it’s disposal upon property not yours is Littering, which is already illegal.

    Ermahgerd, but the Turtles! Plastic bags aren’t causing an extinction of any species, but you’re Save The (flavor of the day) is causing an extinction of Human Reasonableness. Save unborn human babies from being murdered first, then you can tackle accidental plastic overdoses by reptiles.

    Saturday, Sep 23 @ 6:18 pm