Energy and Environment: How the Legislature Views Its Necessity

The push to make the words green, energy and efficient all on equal terms was clearly evident during the 2009 General Assembly long session. Some legislators are more vocal about transitioning everything in the state towards a “green” economy more than others, which is revealed in the numerous bills submitted for legislation. A quick rundown of legislation is listed below: bills that were ratified, as well as others that could be reviewed again in the near future that could become law.   

Key Ratified Legislation:

Renewable Energy Incentives:

House Bill 512: “Incentives for Energy Conservation,”sponsored by Reps. Holliman (D- Davidson), Harrison (D- Guilford) and Luebke (D-Durham), extends current tax credits for renewable energy property including wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass to include geothermal heat pumps. Tax credits will remain in effect through Jan. 1, 2016.

House Bill 1389: “Revolving Loan Fund for Energy Improvements,”sponsored by Reps. Fisher (D-Buncombe), Harrison and Rapp (D-Madison), authorizes cities and counties to establish a loan program for the financing of renewable energy sources “in the best interest of the citizens.” Capping interest at eight percent and terms at 15 years, the General Assembly recommends the use of grants or unrestricted city and county funds to finance the loans.

House Bill 1387: “Solar Collectors on Residential Properties,” sponsored by Reps. Fisher and Harrison, extends restrictions on city and county ordinances from regulating solar collectors on residential property.

Energy Efficiency:

Senate Bill 304: “Energy Savings Contracts’ Cap/Program Admin,” sponsored by Sen. Clodfelter (D-Mecklenburg), increases the total amount the State may finance under guaranteed energy savings contracts for State governmental units from $100 million to $500 million dollars.

House Bill 1079: “Energy Efficient State Motor Fleet,” sponsored by Reps. Harrison, Martin (D-Wake), Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg), requires new vehicles purchased by the Department of Administration to be in the top 15 percent of their class in fuel economy. Taking into consideration the best value for the state, the Department is required to “reasonably consider” both projected fuel costs and acquisition costs of new state vehicles. Additionally, the Department will report the savings or costs associated with this effort from the previous fiscal year on or before October 1 of each year to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations and the Environmental Review Commission. 

Waste Reduction:

House Bill 760: “Disposal of Pesticide Containers,”sponsored by Rep. Gibson (D-Anson), exempts pesticide containers from an existing ban on the disposal of certain plastic containers in landfills.

Senate Bill 1018: “Ban Certain Single-Use Bags,” sponsored by Sen. Stein (D-Wake), first sought to eliminate plastic bag use across the state by October 2011, by requiring retailers to use 100 percent recycled paper (except in certain cases involving health safety). However, by the time this bill left committee it was refocused to eliminate plastic bags only on the barrier islands of two Outer Banks counties. This bill went into effect Sept. 1, 2009.

Stalled Legislation:

House Bill 1099: “Amend Environmental Laws 2009,”sponsored by Reps. Allen (D-Franklin) and Gibson delays by one year the addition of water system efficiency criteria as a requirement to be eligible for state water infrastructure funds. Additionally, this bill would direct the Revenue Laws Study Committee and the Environmental Review Commission to examine how the state could generate revenue by taxing or licensing large-scale users of the State’s natural resources. And finally, this bill would establish the controversial Yadkin River Trust intended to take over the currently private hydroelectric facility. 

Senate Bill 567/ House Bill 1484: “Promote Electricity Demand Reduction,” sponsored by Sen. Hartsell (R-Iredell) and Reps. Barnhart (R-Cabarrus), Dickson (D-Cumberland) and Glazier (D-Cumberland) amends the 2007 law (known as Senate Bill 3) that created the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards for electric utilities by allowing companies to use demand reduction as a means to meet the required goals.

Senate Bill 811: “Fuel Rationing Authority for the Governor,” sponsored by Sen. McKissick (D-Durham) would give the Governor power to freeze the cost of and ration fuel during a state of disaster, a local state of emergency, or an “abnormal market disruption”.

Senate Bill 836/ House Bill 1287: “Recycle Products Containing Mercury,” sponsored by Sen. Albertson (D-Duplin) and Reps. Harrison and Burris-Floyd (R-Gaston) would require that public agencies remove prior to the demolition of a building and recycle florescent lights and mercury thermostats. This bill would also ban all mercury-containing products from landfills.

Legislation Not Considered:

Budget & Taxes

House Bill 619: “NC Green Business Fund,” sponsored by Reps. Harrison (D-Guilford), Bryant (D-Nash), Luebke (D-Durham) and Tolson (D-Edgecombe) would have repurposed the N.C. Green Business fund from a grant-making fund to a no interest loan-making fund through special revenue within the Department of Commerce and a $5 million appropriation from the General Fund.

House Bill 1050: “Independent Energy Efficiency Administrator,” sponsored by Reps. Blue (D-Wake), Tolson (D-Edgecombe), Glazier and Harrison would have established the NC Save$ Energy as an administration for energy efficient and energy conservation programs. This non-profit would have the authority to increase taxes of ratepayers.

House Bill 504/Senate Bill 147: “Tax Credit for Energy-Efficient Homes,” sponsored by Fisher (D-Buncombe), Harrison, Goforth (D-Buncombe) and Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg) would have established a $1,000 to $2,000 tax credit for builders of energy-efficient homes. This bill would have required homes to be federally certified by the ENERGY STAR Program under the Environmental Protection Agency or the NC Healthy Built Homes Program under the State Energy Office to qualify.

“For the Future”

House Bill 1075: “Teach “Green” Science in High Schools,” sponsored by Reps. Cotham (D-Mecklenburg), Harrison, Allen (D- Franklin), and Carney (D-Mecklenburg) would have directed the State Board of Education to develop an elective science course on renewable and alternative energy.

Senate Bill 1024: “N.C. 2050 Sustainability Task Force,” sponsored by Sen. Stein would have established a Sustainability Task Force to plan for the future through year 2050. The 25-member Task Force would have been made up of House and Senate appointees, State officials, and members of the university system specializing in growth. 

House Bill 811/ Senate Bill 1044: “Moratorium on Coal-Fired Plants,” sponsored by Reps. Harrison, Luebke and Fisher, and Sen. Kinnard (D-Orange), who sought to place a moratorium on coal fired power plant construction in the name of economic relief and to promote renewable energy.

House Bill 1441: “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions Act,” sponsored by Harrison, Fisher and K. Alexander (D-Mecklenburg) would have inventoried and mandated the reduction of greenhouse gases by 10 percent in 2020.

House Bill 1521: “Funds to Create a "Green" Welcome Center in Wilkes County,” sponsored by Rep. Shirley Randleman (R-Wilkes) requested $50,000 to “construct an environmentally friendly visitor’s center in Wilkes County.” While this bill was eventually stalled out in committee, funds were secured by Sen. Goss (D – Watauga) from Sen. Basnight’s (D – Dare) discretionary fund.

House Bill 289: “Coordinate Traffic Signals/Reduce Energy Use,” sponsored by Rep. Allred, who has since resigned, sought to require municipalities to work with the Department of Transportation to coordinate traffic signal patterns in an effort to reduce the consumption of energy by reducing idle time of vehicles.

Legislation Pending Review:

Several items have been included in House Bill 945: “The Studies Act of 2009,” to be further examined by experts appointed by the General Assembly. Based on the committee’s findings, we can expect to see these “green” bills re-introduced next session.

Incentives

The Committee and the Energy Policy Council may jointly study the feasibility and suitability of establishing feed-in rates, a form of incentive, to be paid to renewable energy electricity producers by electric power suppliers for each kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. Feed-in rates are designed to balance the high costs associated with renewable energy (House Bill 1440).

Additionally, the Commission may study a “Cap-and-Trade” type program for the farming industry similar to the program for other businesses in proposed federal legislation aimed to reduce carbon emissions over time (House Bill 28).

Alternative Energy

The Commission may study the feasibility of expanding the use of alternative energy sources in state vehicles, buildings and other power systems. (Senate Bill 651)

The Commission may study the impact of city and county ordinances prohibiting the installation of clotheslines.  (House Bill 1352)

Construction

The state will study the feasibility of “green” construction by examining the establishment of a Green School Construction Loan Fund (House Bill 282) to provide no interest loans to local schools for green construction as well as the possibility of requiring new and renovated commercial buildings and new residential buildings to comply with energy conservation standards known as the Green Building Code (House Bill 1442).

Wind

House Bill 809/Senate Bill 1068: Permits for the Siting of Wind Energy Facilities stalled towards the end of the session, however it is more than likely we will see it back as the Committee may study ways to establish a system of permits to be issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the siting of wind energy facilities.

This article was posted in Environment by Kasey Ginsberg on October 13, 2009 at 10:19 AM.

© 2011 The Civitas Institute. Visit us on the web at www.nccivitas.org.
This article can be found at http://www.nccivitas.org/2009/energy-and-environment-how-legislature-views-its-necessity/

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