Political

Sierra Club Endorsements for Asheville City Elections in 2013

Please follow this link to our endorsements: Click here.

The 2013 legislative session will be remembered for:
1st time in over a century that GOP enjoyed control of the House, Senate and Governorship and changed the direction of the state. 
-Weekly Moral Monday protests where thousands came out against the state’s hard right turn and hundreds were arrested.
Attacks:
On clean energy in NC (REPS)
On promises made last year by the legislature about fracking
On wetlands, groundwater, Jordan Lake
On all environmental rules and regulations
On Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) budget and rulemaking.
Wins
Stopped effort to repeal NC renewable energy portfolio standards (REPS)
Stopped proposal to take building energy efficiency standards backwards
Stopped efforts to lift moratorium on fracking
Stopped attempts to prevent/limit public disclosure of fracking chemicals
Stopped efforts to remove protections for isolated wetlands
House Bill 74 – Regulatory Reform
Local governments may adopt environmental ordinances stronger than state/federal only by unanimous vote of council/commission
Sets schedule – but no extra $- for DENR to review and re-adopt many environmental rules or they automatically expire. Water quality protections face the first set of deadlines (coming year).
Overrides local billboard ordinances, allows billboard companies to rebuild existing billboards that don’t conform to local rules.
-   Eliminates Mountain Resources Commission
H 74 extends compliance boundary for groundwater quality standards out to a facility’s property line.
Removes obligation for polluters to address groundwater contamination until after it reaches property line.
Limits authority of DENR to require clean up before contaminants cross compliance boundary, increasing likelihood that contamination will spread.
This affects groundwater pollution from many types of facilities; we focused on coal ash ponds.
Environmental justice provisions weakened for sighting of landfills
-     Garbage trucks now have to only be “leak-resistant” instead of                  “leak-proof” (meaning NO leaks
Good news:
H 298 REPS Repeal Bill
Repeal effort supported by conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity and Civitas. Heavily promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), measures to repeal/freeze state renewable energy standards introduced in several states this year.  All failed.                            

H 298: Details of the proposed bill
REPS requires 12.5% of energy to be sourced from renewables by 2021; no sunset provision.
H 298 would have undermined the momentum of the NC clean energy industry even though it generates $1.7 billion in annual revenue for NC, has created more than 15,000 jobs.
More than 1,100 clean energy companies are operating in NC, partly as a result of REPS.
H 298 REPS Repeal Bill
1st version of H 298 changed definition of “renewable energy resource” to remove wind and to allow peat, fossil fuels, and nuclear to count (that provision was eventually removed).
Supporters of REPS repeal argued H 298 was jobs bill because reducing power bills benefits economy. This argument didn’t fly because the cost added to power bills for REPS is tiny while the positive job impacts are big.  
Customers pay less than $0.50/month to bring clean energy online. By law, cost of REPS to residential customers cannot exceed $2.83/month, or $34/year.
H 298 withdrawn from committee calendars in the House and Senate and failed to meet the legislative “crossover” deadline. It is not eligible for consideration in the 2014 short session.


Further Attacks on Energy Efficiency
Buildings consume over 40% of nation’s energy and have a lifespan of 50 – 75 years.
It’s critical that new construction be to efficient standards. Energy efficiency saves consumers $ because power bills are lowered
Less energy used  = less pollution from coal fired power plants. BUT, efficiency standards often opposed by development interests because of up-front costs.
HB 201 would have repealed 2012 commercial building codes energy efficiency standards, reverted to 2009 standards. 2012 code requires 15% energy efficiency improvements for residences, 30% improvement for commercial. Residential provisions came out because there was no support, not even from developers.
H 201 passed the House, but never got to a vote in Senate. This was a close call.

S 76 – The  Original Bill – everything that didn’t get in S 820 last year
As first proposed by the Senate:
authorized issuance of fracking permits beginning March 1, 2015; no matter if rules were yet adopted or voted on by legislature
lifted ban on underground injection of wastewater
repealed landmen registry, and disallowed local taxation of fracking.
All these provisions came out in the House version of the bill, which the Senate ultimately agreed to, so the final bill mostly leaves intact the promises made last year in S 820 to let the MEC develop rules for fracking and bring those back to the legislature for adoption.
Legislation to fast track fracking tried repeatedly  – in several bills – but failed.
Held back efforts to lift moratorium on fracking and efforts to keep secret the chemicals used in fracking
Stopped efforts to lift ban on underground injection of fracking wastewater (largely due to opposition in east)
-     Stopped effort to prevent local taxing of fracking operations (to pay for damage to infrastructure like roads

S 76 did set the Stage for Offshore Drilling:
NC must join with other mid-Atlantic states to push for offshore drilling; Governor already doing.
Allocates revenue from potential offshore drilling
Exempts agency rulemakings on oil and gas production from fiscal notes = less knowledge about financial impacts of these rules.

What Does the Legislature Have Against Jordan Lake?
Senate Bill 515: First version would have entirely repealed Jordan Lake clean up rules. Suspends Jordan Lake Rules for 3 more years (there were 2 previous delays). No corresponding suspension of new development of course. Sponsor: Senator Rick Gunn.
S 315 forces Durham to provide water and sewer services to a controversial proposed development to be located next to Jordan Lake. Subverts local control and would increase runoff into highly polluted part of lake. Supporter – Rep. Tim Moore.

Mixed Results for Land Conservation:
More funding than previous years for conservation trust funds.
But the Income tax credit for landowners who conserve their land through donation was eliminated.
NC Conservation Tax Credit has helped protect more than 230,000 acres of natural lands.
Long-standing dedicated source of revenue (small portion of deed stamp tax) for land conservation eliminated.
This reliable source of funding helped create and expand numerous state and local parks and conserved other natural areas.