The 2007-2008 General Assembly Session resulted in the passage of a budget, as well as a number of other bills, that increased funding for a number of environmental initiatives with little to no benefit. These include a renewable energy bill that will increase residential electric bills by $10 to $30, as well as a bill aimed at banning light bulbs. If the volume of environmental legislation during this session is any indication, 2007 saw an acceleration of the state’s usual heavy handed strategy of addressing environmental issues. A striking aspect of much of this new legislation is that it provides a broad foundation upon which to expand environmental policies, subsidies, and regulatory controls in the future. The most significant changes will affect solid waste, renewable energy, and hazardous material oversight. These laws will mean increased environmental bureaucracy, expanded regulation and additional costs.
New Spending In The Green Budget (HB 1473/S.L. 2007-323)
Spending for the Division of Environment and Natural Resources increased to $205.2 million for FY2008 – up from $183.3 million, or 12 percent, over 2006-07. This new spending does not include environmental spending managed by other state bureaucracies, such as Agriculture. Highlights from the 2007-08 budget include:
- Land for Tomorrow: A last minute addition to the budget authorized the issuance of $120 million in special indebted- ness (no voter approval required) for land acquisition, waterfront properties, and the improvement of public and commer- cial waterfront access.
- More Green Fees: The 2007-08 budget included more ways to tax without transparency: fees. Fees are meant to mitigate purported environmental damage by requiring people to pay for the ecological effects of their commercial activities. For example, the state charges water quality fees (all of which went up across the board this year) to developers. Developers pass these costs on to citizens. Water quality fees are now $60.00 per single family residence, for example.
- Pervious Surfaces: A special budget provision requires that 20 percent of new vehicle parking areas be constructed with pervious materials (materials water can pass through), or be designed with storm water management systems approved by the government.
- N.C. Green Business Fund: This budget provided grants and subsidies ($1 million) to so-called “green” business ventures. Transferring tax dollars to businesses to conserve energy or adhere to strict environmental construction require- ments not only raises costs, but represents another attempt by government to shape energy markets. Unintended effects of market distortions are largely ignored.
- Corporate Welfare: $2.3 million will go to a single, as-yet unnamed renewable fuels company that will likely produce biofuels in North Carolina.
- Oyster Fund: $300,000 will go toward Shellfish Restoration Funds. Among other things this money will be used to “conduct a pilot project to protect oyster sanctuaries from cownose ray and skate predation.”
- Other Subsidies: Swine Waste Technology Initiatives ($2 million); Water Quality Monitoring on Ferry Vessels ($300,000); River Herring Research (two grants of $148,521 and $103,679 recurring); Continuation Review of the Environmental Stewardship Initiative ($276,624); Poultry Waste Management ($250,000).
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