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Flawed Energy Compromise Passes

Following a deal between Gov. Roy Cooper and legislative leaders from both parties, the state Senate and House both quickly passed a flawed compromise energy bill last week, over the objection of advocates concerned about Duke Energy having too much power, a lack of enforcement for carbon reductions, and the impact of multi-year utility rate increases on low-wealth families.

In a statement on the new version of House Bill 951, our Director of Governmental Relations Dan Crawford said, “This compromise is an improvement over the original bill, and we want to thank Gov. Cooper for going to bat for North Carolinians. But ultimately, the bill still allows Duke Energy too much room to wiggle out of carbon reductions, and we can’t squeeze our noses hard enough to support it. It would allow Duke too much power to thwart our clean energy future and pad its profits at the expense of low-income communities and North Carolinians of color, and could give Duke veto power equal to that of the Utilities Commission. We would be happy to reevaluate our position if these serious deficiencies are addressed. But unless they are, we will be including this bill on our 2021 Legislative Scorecard.”

These views were shared by the NC Justice Center, NC Council of Churches, and most of the state’s environmental and clean energy organizations, including the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Voices, and Vote Solar. None of these groups were invited to the table to negotiate either the original or compromise versions of the bill.

In the end, 20 representatives and 7 senators voted against it. On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we thanked 18 of them who not only opposed this bill but also consistently vote for our values. Share those posts to join us in showing them love!

Gov. Cooper has said he will sign the bill this week. He and the bill’s other supporters note the final version removes some of the most egregious provisions of the original Duke-written version, including natural gas mandates. It also incorporates the carbon emission reduction goals in the governor’s Clean Energy Plan: 70% cuts by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels), and net-zero emissions by 2050.

But those goals are just that, not mandates with enforcement mechanisms. In the long term, implementation of the positive elements of the bill — and the ability to avoid its worst risks — will fall to the regulators on the state Utilities Commission (NCUC). Gov. Cooper’s strong NCUC appointees have terms that end in 2027, during the second half of the next governor’s term. That makes the 2024 election outcome and NCUC nominations crucial to see carbon reductions and ratepayer protections to the finish line. Clean energy and environmental justice advocates like us will fight for a pro-climate action candidate in that election, push for strong NCUC policy, and track NCUC appointments closely. We expect Duke to spend a lot of money opposing our efforts. This is only the beginning.

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