Editorial: Back candidates to promote renewable energy, repeal anti-environment law
Posted October 17
PART 5: In the season of endorsements, Capitol Broadcasting Company is focusing on issues -- not individuals. Get to know where the candidates stand and vote for those that line up in agreement with the issues we’re outlining in a special series on this page. Political parties and ideologies are irrelevant.
A CBC Editorial: Monday, Oct. 17, 2016; Editorial# 8069
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting
In 2011 North Carolina took a giant step backward in protecting its environment. With the enactment of the “Regulatory Reform Act of 2011,” the state reverted to a long-discarded law that limits state environmental laws, rules and regulations to be no more stringent than federal standards.
But the legislation -- enacted over then Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto -- went EVEN FURTHER; it mandated a comprehensive review of all environmental rules and regulations on the books and required any that exceeded the federal bottom-line to be rolled back.
As if that rollback wasn’t enough, lawyers from Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration and his Department of Environmental Quality, are now in court fighting to further weaken those same federal environmental standards.
Over the objections of Attorney General Roy Cooper, the McCrory administration is battling the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan that seeks to cut pollution emissions by 32 percent over the next 14 years. Ironically, the state was already on the way to easily reaching this goal under current laws and practices.
The 2011 legislation also included a more cynical restriction. The law banned local governments from imposing any standards for their communities stricter than those set out by the state. As the state slowly recovers from the disastrous impact of Hurricane Matthew, those new restrictions look very short-sighted.
Local and state officials will be considering ways to limit the devastating impact of powerful storms like Matthew in the future, and ill-conceived laws like this become hindrances. The law handcuffs communities looking to protect themselves and their residents.
Limiting state and local governments is wrong and puts our environment in jeopardy. Candidates for statewide and legislative office should pledge to repeal this ban – and voters should support those that will do it.
Along with assuring the state takes basic steps to protect its environment, voters need to make sure North Carolina stays on track to promote the use and development of clean energy resources. Voters should back candidates who promise to, at a minimum, maintain the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. Additionally, candidates should revive the state’s tax credit for the development of clean energy resources – particularly solar and wind energy.
North Carolina’s embrace of clean energy has made it a national leader. Our clean energy sector pumps more than $7 billion into the state’s economy and accounts for more than 26,000 jobs – not to mention savings on the cost of conventional power generation.
The renewable energy standard calls for electric utilities to diversify the state’s energy mix and promote the development of clean energy resources. The goal is to gradually increase electric utilities’ use of renewable energy and energy efficiency to 12.5 percent of retail electricity sales by 2021. The cost to consumers is minor – typically just pennies on a monthly bill.
The state’s very successful renewable energy tax credit program was eliminated at the end of 2015. It offered a 35 percent tax credit to support and promote residential use of renewable energy products along with the development of wind energy. The credit more than paid for itself through economic activity it generated, fossil fuel savings, cutting down on pollution and reducing electric bills.
Voters should back candidates who will take these three steps to protect North Carolina’s environment, make us more energy efficient, create jobs and save us all some money while we’re at it.