Playing Politics with GenX

It happens: An inexperienced soldier fires a shot that ends a cease fire. But it’s odd when he fires into his own troops.

When the GenX crisis started both sides acknowledged the problem. Both wanted to solve it. We had a political cease fire of sorts. But it didn’t last.

The Democrats immediately proposed a solution – they said, Let’s spend more money. Republicans didn’t rule out spending more but responded, Well, first, let’s make sure the solution we’re paying for will work.

That’s when Democrats fired the first shot. As if determining whether the solution would work is an unnecessary detail they said, Republicans don’t want to spend more so they don’t want to solve the problem.

Then Democratic Rep. Deb Butler, from Wilmington, fired a second shot.

It turns out, last November, 19 employees in the Department of Environmental Quality received a report about GenX in the Cape Fear River. But, somehow, according to DEQ Secretary Michael Regan, no one ever told him about the GenX discharges until June.

Democratic Rep. Butler had a simple explanation for Regan’s ignorance: It was due, she said, to a Republican conspiracy. Governor McCrory’s administration had withheld information from Governor-elect Cooper’s transition team.

That didn’t exactly add up: How could Republicans muzzle 19 DEQ employees who have worked for Governor Cooper since January? (In fact, when I asked Secretary Regan if those staffers were still employed by DEQ, he said yes.)

So was Secretary Regan’s ignorance due to an evil conspiracy by Republicans – as Rep. Butler charges? Or was the problem DEQ bungling?

Here’s one more fact: Chemours says it’s been discharging GenX into the Cape Fear River since 1980, back in the days when a young Jim Hunt was Governor. And DEQ says it was told about the discharges.  That Chemours didn’t hide anything. So DEQ knew about the dumping for years and did nothing – which sure sounds like bungling.

Addressing the GenX problem started out on the right track. But now politics has taken over. And we have Democrats shouting it was all ‘a Republican conspiracy’ and ‘just spend more money.’

But does any of that make sense? Or is it just one more example of broken politics?

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