North Carolina Sea Level Bill Rewrite Rejects Sole Use Of Historical Trends

06/22/2012 11:10 am ET | Updated Aug 22, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A rewrite of a bill that controls how North Carolina prepares for climate change along the coast is headed to the general assembly next week.

A conference committee met Thursday morning to rework the bill and reject language lamented by the scientific community that would limit the state to using historical data to prepare for rising sea levels.

Committee Chair Republican Rep. Pat McElraft of Carteret County said the rewritten bill has a few major changes. The bill would require more sea level studies by the Coastal Resources Commission during the next three to four years. The state in the meantime would not be allowed to use the state-sponsored scientific suggestions that North Carolina prepare for three-foot sea level rise by 2100. There would also be no law that calculations used would have to be based solely on historic trends.

"Before we set coastal policy for 100 years we need to make sure we're looking at it carefully," said Republican Rep. Ruth Samuelson of Mecklenburg County who also worked on the rewrite.

McElraft says the revised version of the bill will be presented next week.

The sea-level discussion started after a state-appointed science panel warned sea levels could rise by more than three feet by 2100 and threaten more than 2,000 square miles of coastal land. The Senate rewrote HB 819, put forth by McElraft in 2011, to legislate against those scientific recommendations.

Senators doubted the science behind the state-appointed panel's recommendations and wanted a law that would limit the state to using historic data to predict future trends. Those figures, also pushed by coastal development group NC-20, were much lower than the science panel's at eight inches instead of three feet. Senators argued that overregulation would harm the coastal economy.

That bill passed through the Senate 34-to-11 on June 12, but was shot down in a 114-to-0 vote when it returned to the House the next week. Along the way it garnered national media attention and some mockery by comedian Stephen Colbert.

Frank Tursi, assistant director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation, liked that the House threw the brakes on the bill.

"We hope that whatever comes out of these discussions will be better (than the Senate's version)," Tursi said.

He added that the legislature should use the best science available.

"Clearly, we hope that whatever they do they let the scientists do their job and let the state get to its legitimate role of protecting people and property," Tursi said. "Let's not mix this up with politics."


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