A drought bill cleared a legislative committee Tuesday, offering a chance that the legislature will pass a drought law this session.
Environmental groups, municipalities, industry types, the legislature and the governor's office have struggled to reach agreement on exactly how the state should respond to a drought. Lawmakers, representatives of the governor and others were up until 3 a.m. this morning trying to hammer out a compromise, officials said.
The version of the bill that got a favorable report from the House Environment and Natural Resources on Tuesday requires water systems to file drought plans with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The department could reject inadequate plans. In cases of severe, extreme or exceptional drought, the department could force a water system to implement it's plan, and if the plan falls short of conservation goals, state officials could force a water system to implement harsher restrictions.
A previous version of the bill gave the state's chief environment official the power to impose water restrictions.
Some lawmakers complained Tuesday that the bill doesn't do enough to support conservation efforts through education.
Rep. Pryor Gibson, a Wadesboro Democrat and one of bill's primary sponsors, said that he supports doing more, but that just hammering out the current version was a struggle.
"Should we add more things it it? Absolutely. Can we get the votes for it on this complex bill? I don't know," Gibson said.
The governor's office and the League of Municipalities support the current bill, which is H 2499.