Editorial: Not fixed? Stop breaking it

May. 15, 2013 @ 10:19 PM

So, let’s say we’ve got an office rule to keep the refrigerator clean.

But we hem and haw about who’s going to pay for the spray cleaner and the wash rags. We drag our feet about whether we’re responsible just for our individual lunch sacks. And when it comes time for cleaning, who’s going to do the actual work?

It’s so much hassle.

While we debate, everything in that refrigerator gets old and grows mold. And then we look at the mess and say forget that rule. Let’s wait for something else to fix the problem.

Welcome to the North Carolina Senate, which passed a bill that repeals laws designed to improve water quality in Jordan Lake.

The lake’s a little bigger than an office refrigerator, though. Covering more than 1,600 square miles, the watershed touches several area communities, including Durham and Chapel Hill, and it’s a major source of drinking water for the region.

Rules established in 2009 would reduce pollutants and protect the water supply, but local governments have balked at cost and developers, unsurprisingly, think such rules hurt growth.

In an Associated Press article, the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Rick Dunn, R-Alamance, said he’s motivated by the lack of change in the nutrient levels of the lake from 2004 to 2012.

“It’s impaired now, and every source of reasonable data will tell you that this lake, abiding by the Jordan Lake rules that are in place now, will stay impaired forever, regardless of the amount of money that is put in mitigation efforts upstream,” he said.

Some sources of reasonable data might argue that the lake remains impaired because nothing’s happened yet to change it under the new rules.

The 2009 rules set a 2012 deadline for local governments to adopt new standards. That deadline then got punted to 2014.

“We haven’t done anything yet, so how can we say it’s not working?” said Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange.

The director of North Carolina’s Sierra Club chapter, Molly Diggins, probably put it best:

“What Sen. Gunn has proposed is we stop cleanup efforts and indefinitely delay, seeking a magic technological solution to the problem. He was unable to provide a single example that would be a reason to believe there’s a more efficient or less expensive way to do it.”

On top of everything else, this bill might also violate federal directives to improve water quality. But this would hardly be the first time during this session that lawmakers in our General Assembly have tried running rogue. Remember that plan for a state religion that would’ve violated the First Amendment?

Just because the refrigerator got messy due to everyone’s inaction doesn’t invalidate the principle behind cleaning it out.