Lawmakers Tackle Environment Bill In Last Week Of Work

Lawmakers moved the state closer on Monday to being the first in the Southeast to make its utilities use renewable fuels and energy conservation. That provision is the highlight of a bill that won preliminary House approval.

The highly touted energy act requires the state's utilities to provide 12 and a half percent of their retail electricity from renewable fuel and efficiency measures by 2017. The bill cleared its first full House vote 108-to-eleven, and needs final House approval and Senate concurrence before Governor Easley can sign it into law.

Critics complained in committee hearings about sections of the measure that would allow the construction of traditional power plants to be financed at ratepayers' expense. But those complaints have largely been silenced as most lawmakers accepted that North Carolina's growth and need for electricity can't be met by conservation and alternative fuel sources alone.