Dupont Liability For Transylvania County Site
A bill to release Dupont from liability for cleanup of environmental contamination at their manufacturing site in Dupont State Forest re-emerged suddenly in House Rules Committee on Wednesday and was quickly passed by the House later that day. The bill, Senate Bill 629, Manufacturing Redevelopment Districts, introduced by Sen. John Snow (Cherokee-D), was passed by House Commerce Committee in June, but was pulled from the House calendar and sent to the Rules Committee while Governor Easley negotiated some changes with the bill proponents.
Under the bill, Dupont would transfer title of the land to Transylvania County, who would then immediately transfer it to a new company, Ilford, which manufactures photographic paper. In exchange, Dupont would receive partial immunity for contamination at the site and Ilford assumes all cleanup liability. After Ilford has ceased operations and completed cleanup, they transfer the title to the State and the land becomes part of Dupont State Forest. The substitute bill makes several changes: 1) limits Dupont's immunity; 2) takes the State out of the chain of title, and thus the chain of liability, by passing the title through Transylvania County instead; 3) increases Ilford's accountability for cleanup; 4) requires Ilford to remove all buildings before transferring the land to the State; and 5) requires Ilford to provide a certain level of investment and jobs. The new version theoretically does not provide complete immunity for Dupont, but what they would practically be liable for is unclear. Additionally, while language requiring the new operator (Ilford) to guarantee cleanup of the contamination has been strengthened, what would happen in the event of bankruptcy is also unclear. In House Rules, there was little debate, and the bill passed unanimously.
On the House floor, the rules were suspended to allow the bill to be considered the same day and it passed on a vote of 109-2. I voted against it because of constitutional concerns and issues related to the uncertainty of the cleanup of the contaminated site.