General Assembly jump starts repeal of OBX plastic bag ban

By on August 30, 2017

While the General Assembly has been grinding away this week on redrawing their own district maps, a panel of lawmakers has been working on amending an environmental regulatory reform bill that rolls back the 2009 ban on single-use plastic shopping bags on the Outer Banks.

Rather than adjourning at the end of June when they completed the 2017-18 fiscal year state government budget, lawmakers decided to schedule additional work days into the fall.

The extended schedule was due primarily to a federal court ruling that their 2011 district maps were illegal racial gerrymanders and required new maps to be presented by Sept. 1.


They also wanted to complete work on proposals that had been approved in different versions by the House and Senate but had hit an impasse, including House Bill 56.

The main spark rekindling the bill 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 that has been found in the main water supply for the City of Wilmington.

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 the next year. 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 bag ban repeal was originally introduced by Rep. Beverly Boswell, R-Dare, as a separate bill and was eventually rolled into the omnibus measure.


Taken out of the bill is the reduction of the size of the state Marine Fisheries Commission from nine to seven seats by eliminating the two at-large positions, and the requirement of a super majority of five votes to approve rule-making and the regulation of fisheries under a fishery management plan.

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

Added to the bill Wednesday was an allocation of $435,000 to be split between the Wilmington-area water utility and UNC Wilmington to study GenX.


Gov. Roy 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.

A statement from Senate leader Phil Berger’s office said more money will be allocated to GenX response in the future but questiond why NCDEQ had not issued notice of violations against the company that discharged the chemical.

The bill also requires the department to explain to the legislature if a notice is not issued by the end of next week.

A conference committee moved to send a revised edition of the measure to the floor Wednesday evening. The Senate gave its approval, followed by the House Rules Committee.

The full House will take up the bill Thursday morning, and is expected to approve and send it to Cooper’s desk.


  • Andrea Nunnally

    We should ban all plastic bags near beaches…Poquoson, Hampton, York, Newport News, Va Beach, etc

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 10:08 am
  • Jenny

    Plastic bags need to remain banned. They pollute our beaches because people are irresponsible with their trash. The paper bags we currently use here work just fine. Beverly Boswell needs to focus on a worthwhile cause that will improve Dare County, not pollute it or damage it. Wake up, Ms. Boswell!

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 11:40 am
  • Really?

    61-44 Bring on the plastic bags!

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 1:26 pm
  • Islander

    Would some respectable Republican please run against Boswell. She has no clue what the people in Dare County want, nor does she care.

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 3:58 pm
  • Really?

    61-44 Plastic and common sense wins!

    Thursday, Aug 31 @ 4:35 pm
  • B Staley

    Every morning we walk our dog from 8 to 9 am on the beach as allowed. And, every morning we pick up a full bag of trash, not just our little dog’s poo.
    It is absurd that anyone, even a politician, would reinstate plastic bags! (We keep canvas bags in our cars for shopping. This just requires a tiny bit of forethought.)

    Just plain stupid for the environment and honestly stupid politically. What are all y’all thinking!!!???
    Sincerely, Now independent & unlabeled, full time OBX resident.

    Friday, Sep 1 @ 8:17 pm
  • Tom

    Doesn’t make much sense to repeal a law that is working fine and good for the environment with one that we know is bad for the environment.

    Saturday, Sep 2 @ 8:41 am
  • Martha Mancera

    How can the assembly voted to approve the use again the plastic bags to the beach? Please ban plastic bottles! Marine animals diying after they eat all kinds of plastic! Senators please do not approve the bags again!

    Sunday, Sep 3 @ 2:11 am
  • Greg Hamby

    The bottom line on Cook and Boswell is that act for those who pay into their campaign. They do not act for the wishes of the people. Cook has been a lobbyist posing as a legislator since he began in the GA. In reply to “really” you are obviously ignorant to the worldwide problem of plastic in the oceans and the harm it is doing.

    Monday, Sep 4 @ 8:05 am
  • Greg

    Too much plastic everywhere. To advocate for more is foolhardy. We here don’t want to repeal the ban. It is too bad that our state reps are just lobbyists for the plastic bag makers.

    Monday, Sep 4 @ 2:20 pm
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