North Carolina passed a series of laws in the 1970s that prevented its agencies and local governments from creating environmental regulations that were more stringent than federal regulations. These laws were called “Hardison amendments” in reference to then-Senator Harold Hardison, D-Lenoir, who chaired several important legislative committees, notably the Appropriations Committee. Environmentalists lobbied long and hard and finally succeeded in removing the Hardison amendments in the mid-1980s. For the next thirty years, North Carolina was often a national leader among states in innovative environmental regulatory approaches. But in 2011, with the return of a Republican majority to both legislative chambers for the first time since 1870, the legislature reinstated the Hardison amendments, in slightly altered form (originally the new language was added as GS § 143B-279.16; it was later re-codified into the Administrative Procedures Act as GS § 150B-19.3). Understanding the rise, fall, and restoration of North Carolina’s Hardison Amendments helps explain the political dynamics of environmental regulation at the state level in the United States.
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