This is the time of year when bad ideas that have been lurking in committees for months start to move in the General Assembly. The “crossover” deadline rule says that most non-finance legislation must have passed through at least one house of the legislature by a certain date or be dead for the session. This year’s crossover deadline is May 9.
Two of the worst environment-related bill ideas this year popped out of committees in the Senate last week: Senate Bill 377, the anti-wind energy bill; and Senate Bill 559, the Duke Energy multi-year rate hike bill. A mediocre budget, House Bill 966, also made it through the House while leaving major environmental needs unmet.
SB 377 would effectively make most of the North Carolina coast off-limits to commercial wind energy projects. The bill’s backers continue to insist, contrary to all evidence, that current law doesn’t already provide thorough protection to military bases and training activities. In fact, it’s misnamed the “Military Base Protection Act.” SB 377 passed through one committee on a split vote, and is now lurking in the Senate Rules committee, waiting for assignment to the Senate floor calendar.
SB 559 would allow Duke to include up to five years of rate hikes in a single request to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, thereby reducing public oversight of their costs, and creating more opportunity for abuse. It’s no secret that Duke wants to use this process to seek public ratepayer funding for whatever they’re required to do with coal ash cleanup. It could also be used in the future to reduce public review opportunities for new nuclear or other power plants. SB 559 passed the Senate, and has been sent to the House. Tell your representative to oppose this deal by clicking here!
HB 966, the House’s version of a state budget, passed the House last week. The budget continues to underfund pollution control and environmental law enforcement. During floor debate, an amendment to increase funding to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for dealing with emerging water pollutants narrowly failed 56-58. Amendments to require hog farms receiving state biogas technology funding to use better pollution control techniques, and to expand state assistance to local biking and walking projects, also failed.
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