Has an ill legislative wind bringing environmentally egregious bills ceased to blow on our coast, or are we just experiencing the eye of the storm?
“Crossover” — the date by which bills that don’t either raise or spend revenue or amend the Constitution must have passed at least one chamber of the North Carolina General Assembly — has come and gone for the 2019 session. On that front, there’s good news and bad news.
Topping the list of very bad but now theoretically dead bills is Senate Bill 377, which would have prohibited new wind energy projects across most of North Carolina’s coastal region, covering all or parts of 50 counties. The bill’s principle sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown (R-Onslow), has been a dedicated opponent of wind energy for multiple legislative sessions. He succeeded in tacking a wind energy moratorium onto an otherwise good solar energy bill in 2017, and has been seeking to renew and expand the ban.
Strengthened opposition in both the House and Senate helped quash Brown’s stand-alone bill to prohibit new wind energy projects, but there is no indication he has given up the fight. Advocates for wind energy development expect he will attempt to attach some form of wind moratorium onto the budget or another must-pass bill this year as well. However, the elimination of Brown’s party’s veto-proof majorities makes it more likely a Gov. Cooper veto would stick long enough to force the elimination of especially egregious provisions like this one.
Unfortunately, not all of the most environmentally egregious bills were stopped at crossover. Among those highest on the list of opposition priorities for environmental advocates is Senate Bill 559, which would allow Duke Energy to pursue up to five years of rate hikes in a single case. If this bill becomes law, Duke is expected to use it to pursue unpopular items such as forcing electric customers to foot the bill for cleaning up Duke’s massive toxic coal ash pits.
For a look at some of the other bills making environmental watch lists for good or ill, see this summation of the state of bills post-crossover.
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