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Energy bill gets pushback from environmental groups

House Bill 951 received bipartisan support and now heads to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk.
Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 5:58 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - For the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, the energy bill touted by Gov. Roy Cooper as “transformative” for reducing carbon output in the state has other key takeaways.

“Attempts to codify Governor Cooper’s clean energy plan by putting 70% of carbon reductions into statute and also gives Duke Energy multi-year rate-making,” Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations said.

For non-profit organization NC Warn, House Bill 951 was out of sync with the need to slow the climate crisis.

“The bill itself leaves Duke Energy on track to build over 50 gas-fired power units in North Carolina,” Jim Warren, executive director of NC Warn said.

The Cooper-Duke deal also allows Duke Energy to raise electric rates in multi-year blocks, NC Warn said.

Crawford said this could affect low to moderate-income families who are already suffering due to the pandemic.

“There was one proponent of the bill that allows for onboard financing and even then, that is [a] very questionable practice where folks oftentimes, low to moderate folks are renters, and so… they will not get any benefit from that.”

Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations at North Carolina League of Conservation Voters

He added there was a lot of language in the bill that NCLCV thought was too vague and could potentially give too much authority to Duke Energy, such as the word “reasonable,” when it comes to Duke Energy increasing electricity rates.

“Duke could easily apply that term ‘reasonable’ and then send lawyers to court to say ‘hey we did reasonable,’” Crawford said. “And while that process is going through the court system, it could potentially slow down any steps to reduce carbon.”

Other concerns were Duke Energy’s decision-making power with the North Carolina Utilities Commission in the carbon plan.

“The Carbon Plan shall be reviewed every two years and may be adjusted as necessary in the determination of the commission and the electric public utilities,” page one of the bill said.

“That word ‘and’ has big ramifications,” Crawford said.

Duke said in a letter Wednesday the bill does not in any way give them equal footing with the commission or veto power over commission decisions with respect to the carbon plan, according to WRAL.

But Crawford called for technical corrections.

“If they have the courage of their convictions to put actions where their mouths are, they would approve those changes, they would tell Republican leadership they approve those changes, those changes could be made tomorrow in a technical corrections bill,” Crawford said.

Gov. Cooper is expected to sign the bill, yet Crawford hopes there’s an opportunity to address changes while Cooper is negotiating the budget.

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