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ECO sets forum on environmental 'rollback'

ECO, Environmental and Conservation Organization, will host a public forum on Thursday, Jan. 23, at 6:30 at the City Operations Center to focus on what it described as a rollback of environmental protections in North Carolina.

Some of the issues of concern, ECO said, include new billboard rules that could seriously damage the tree canopy, new laws that delay energy efficiency standards, which could result in a substandard housing stock, and recent acts by the General Assembly to remove Asheville's control over its water system, which could have far-reaching implications for the community.

"North Carolina has thrived [for decades] under laws that fostered both a healthy environment and vibrant economy– but in the past several years the legislature has set about dismantling those laws under the false premise that we have to choose between jobs and the environment," DJ Gerken, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center and one of the forum's presenters, said in a news release.

Gerken will be joined by the state Rep. Chuck McGrady and Julie Mayfield, co-director of the Western North Carolina Alliance. Each panelist will speak individually on their understanding of the bills, as well as the long-term implications of the legislation.

Discussion will specifically cover HB 74 (Regulatory Reform Act of 2013), HB 120 (Building Codes: Local Consistency/Exempt Code), and HB 488 (Regionalization of Public Utilities). Some components of each bill may have undesirable long-range effects on the well-being of both the environment and citizens of North Carolina, ECO said.

Call ECO at (828) 692-0385 or visit www.eco-wnc.org for more information. The City Operations Center is at 305 Williams Street in Hendersonville.