The state House recently passed HB 571, a bill directing action on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The CPP, if finalized, would have drastic effects on our citizens and economy. The bill would require the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Environmental Management Commission and the Utilities Commission to craft a plan to comply with this EPA mandate no one has yet seen in final form.
DENR must develop a plan in consultation with the other two agencies in “at least monthly” meetings. The bill includes a lengthy list to be considered: retiring electricity-generating units, demand-side energy management, renewable energy and expanded nuclear power. Each of these is entirely within the jurisdiction of the Utilities Commission. EPA is demanding a nearly 40 percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions from the state but ignores the 20 percent reduction achieved over the past several years. Despite these reductions, the CPP subjects the state to more drastic reductions than 40 other states.
The bill does not require the agencies to assess the draconian effects of the CPP on our electricity supply. Will a sufficient electricity-generating reserve remain after plant closures imposed by the CPP? How drastically will electricity rates increase? S tudies conclude nationwide costs will be nearly $400 billion. The Affordable Care Act imposed federal control over a seventh of the nation’s economy. The CPP will impose federal control over the remaining six-sevenths by its having regulatory dominion over the nation’s electricity systems.
North Carolina should not acquiesce in this federal takeover through HB 571 – a takeover that will also adversely affect natural gas availability and price. By shutting down most coal-fired units and forcing many conversions to natural gas, demand for natural gas will be substantially increased and prices driven up. Will the country have sufficient gas supply and infrastructure for the substantially increased demand?
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for this type of rule-making. The APA sets procedures for agencies to craft rules – public notice and comment, public hearings, consideration of comments and information submitted. The bill ignores the APA and sets up a new unnecessary set of procedures that will bind the three agencies.
For the Environmental Management Commission, it would impose time-consuming processes outside its ambit. Unlike DENR or the Utilities Commission, which are full-time agencies, the EMC is part-time, with 15 citizens from across the state who devote a great deal of volunteer time to regulatory matters with no compensation. The legislature increased the EMC’s workload last fall by approximately 50 percent by adding state waste-management programs.
The legislature also may eliminate the Sedimentation Control Commission and add its programs to the EMC’s workload. EMC’s resources will be stretched without HB 571, especially if meetings with DENR and the Utilities Commission are required “at least” monthly when EMC currently meets two days every other month. Increasing EMC’s workload will limit the number of citizens able to serve, particularly those with day jobs. Recognizing these potential effects, on May 14 the EMC unanimously recommended to the General Assembly that HB 571 not be enacted.
While the House presumably intended to assist the state’s response to the CPP, the result is a misdirected piece of legislation. It unnecessarily limits and misdirects the three agencies in developing a state plan.
No legislative action is needed for the three agencies to develop an appropriate response to EPA. However, if the Senate chooses to act on a bill, it should reject HB 571 and craft legislation that fully responds to EPA’s drastic overreach with its proposed CPP.
If the purpose of HB 571 is to assure an appropriate state response, the legislature can review the final plan adopted by the EMC and likely also by the Utilities Commission.
Charlie Carter, an environmental attorney and former EPA assistant general counsel, is an EMC member and chairs its Air Quality Committee. Views expressed are solely his.