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NCLM News & Political Report

At this point in the year, the political scene in Raleigh can be summed up with one word: anticipation. With signs that the legislature is nearing the end of its 2013 Long Session, anticipation is building as legislative leaders make decisions on the state's fiscal health, regulatory reforms, and state government reorganization. Decisions in all of these areas will likely touch the environmental programs run by N.C. cities and towns.

State's Fiscal Health

To begin with the end, legislative observers anticipate that the N.C. General Assembly will likely wrap up its session around the Fourth of July. Before that date, it must pass a state budget, which is currently under negotiation between the two chambers. Some version of tax reform is integral to that negotiation, as any deal struck on this priority of legislative leaders will dictate how much revenue the state will have to spend in the next fiscal year. Because the timing of the passage of the budget influences the flow of remaining legislation, budget votes generally control when the legislature adjourns.

Regulatory Reforms

We also anticipate that another priority of legislative leaders this session, regulatory reform, will find its way into law after proceeding in fits and starts throughout the session. The Senate has given the House several controversial proposals, including one that would strip cities and towns of their authority to enact environmental ordinances more stringent than state or federal laws. Approved by the Senate over two days with a grand total of one hour of debate, the idea still has attention in the media, and one coastal daily newspaper spoke out against this provision two weekends ago in "Our View: Local officials ignored on permitting, flooding" (Daily Advance). The League has shared its concerns about this provision, as well as regulatory reform ideas it supports, with the House leaders who may decide to introduce an omnibus regulatory reform package in these final weeks of session.

State Government Reorganization

Based on the signals of legislative leaders with respect to the organization of state government departments, we further anticipate some sort of reorganization at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Among other DENR policy changes in its budget proposal, the Senate proposed adding a third Assistant Secretary to the Department. Such a move, if included in a final legislative package, could lead to shuffling of the Department's functions and organizational structure.

Already in the past two weeks, DENR announced several leadership changes for programs that most closely affect local governments. First, Director of Water Quality (DWQ) Chuck Wakild will retire. The League has enjoyed working with Wakild in his various roles with DWQ and hopes that he is no stranger in retirement. Once Wakild's retirement is effective later this summer, current Director of Water Resources Tom Reeder will assume the role of acting DWQ Director in addition to his current responsibilities. DWQ second-in-command Ted Bush will also move to a new role as Director of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service. The League enjoys strong working relationships with both Reeder and Bush and looks forward to continuing those ties.

Regional office services may also change if the legislature approves an initiative to establish eight "prosperity zones" across the state. In SB 127 Customer Srvc., Econ. Dev., and Transport'n -- scheduled for its first House committee hearing tomorrow after passing the Senate last month -- DENR, the N.C. Department of Transportation, and the N.C. Department of Commerce would all have representatives in the same office in each of the eight zones. The bill intends to enhance inter-agency cooperation as well as outreach with local governments in the area, especially in the issuance of permits, in the case of DENR.

Finally, the buzz over possible changes to the make-up of the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC), the state's primary environmental rulemaking body, has increased as anticipation builds here at the end of the legislative session. The Senate introduced an overhaul of the Commission in one of its first bills this session. Then, once a conference committee between the two chambers had worked out a compromise proposal, the House surprisingly voted it down and then promptly introduced another bill containing essentially the same provisions with respect to the EMC. In addition, the Senate included identical language in its budget bill, which the House then removed in its version of the budget. Legislative rumor pegs some sort of changes to the EMC to surface these last few weeks of session, lending suspense as to whether the Commission will have mostly new members at the end of the day.


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League Urges More Refinements to Nutrient Plan

NOTE: This article originally appeared in the League's advocacy blog on May 28.

In its first opportunity to comment on a plan that would determine the course of costly nutrient regulations in the state, the League urged further refinements to the plan. The comments, offered during a public comment period on the state's Nutrient Criteria Development Plan last month, came as the N.C. Division of Water Quality (DWQ) revised the nearly decade-old plan.

The NCDP, required as part of an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), outlines a work plan for regulators to use in addressing nutrient impairments across the state. Similar work plans, negotiated for all states receiving EPA funding, contain a description of an agency's tasks, timelines, and milestones for development of nutrient criteria.

EPA is driving this latest push toward the so-called "numeric nutrient criteria" that have caused extreme controversy in Florida and elsewhere over the past three years. In North Carolina and across the country, pollution from two nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus, presents the most urgent yet difficult water quality issue to address. Past N.C. regulations to control nutrients include the Jordan Lake Rules, Falls Lake Rules, Neuse Rules, Tar-Pamlico Rules, and Randleman Rules.

According to DWQ, the NCDP must provide a way for the state to justify why it chose a particular path for nutrient regulation. Therefore, the plan contains four tasks to move the state toward development of a method to limit the amount of nutrients in the state's waters:

  • Systematic Parameter Review: review the universe of "parameters," or "criteria," on which the state should regulate, such as chlorophyll-a
  • Design and Implement Study Plans: testing phase
  • Determine Appropriate Parameters for Criteria Development
  • Criteria Development

League Comments

Most importantly, the League comments noted that the NCDP started from a premise that the current system of nutrient regulation in the state was not working. The plan stated, "North Carolina recognizes that additional nutrient criteria are warranted as the current criteria may not adequately address protections for all waters of the state." Further, the plan made repeated references to the EPA-endorsed approach of regulating nutrients solely on the presence of nitrogen and phosphorus in a given water body.

In contrast, the League wrote, "[A]s demonstrated repeatedly in presentations at last year's NC Forum on Nutrient Over-Enrichment (Nutrient Forum), in-stream nutrient levels alone cannot be used for setting reasonable and appropriate water body management requirements." The League requested general revisions to the NCDP that would not lead the state to regulation based solely on nitrogen and phosphorus criteria. Rather, the League supported a continuation of the state's practice of confirming impacts on aquatic life prior to regulation, in addition to these other tenets:

  • Site-specific data and analysis supports action;
  • Proposed controls address waters where there is demonstrated use impairment;
  • Management actions are proportionate to the sources causing impairment; and
  • Management requirements are equitably applied to all contributors to the impairment.

In addition to these primary concerns, the League also requested a stakeholder process to further refine the NCDP, as well as preservation of existing nutrient management strategies currently being implemented across the state. Finally, the League offered a host of specific technical comments on the plan.

This set of comments built on more general input regarding principles of nutrient regulation that the League submitted in January in advance of the release of the NCDP.

Background

League members selected the issue of nutrient management as their highest regulatory priority because municipalities assume a primary responsibility for implementing the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

This responsibility comes because many municipalities hold federal wastewater and/or stormwater permits, which allows them to discharge into various waters of the state. When one of those water bodies exceeds the numerical criteria measuring the effects of nutrients on those waters and is determined to be impaired, the CWA requires clean-up plans. In those instances, permitted dischargers to impaired waters, like municipalities, receive new permit limits and program directives as they become subject to nutrient management strategies. Implementation of those strategies is expensive and drives up compliance costs for the municipality as well as rates paid by system customers.

Because the elements of the NCDP have the potential to commit the state and permit-holders to large public expenditures, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) will consider and make suggestions for the plan. That discussion could come at the July EMC meeting.

The League has reported extensively on the efforts leading up to the NCDP comment period. A selection of articles on those efforts includes:


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EMC Approves Rules that Assist Buffer Mitigation in Urban Areas

Cities will have an easier time cleaning up impaired waters in urban areas under a set of buffer rules approved by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) last month. In voting to approve the proposal, several EMC members noted their support of provisions in the rules that would assist municipalities in improving water quality in urban areas.

Buffer mitigation is a state program that generally requires protection of nearby waters when activities impact a stream on or adjacent to a development site. However, prior to passage of this rule package last month, program requirements were often too strict to allow buffer mitigation in urbanized areas. For example, one former program element required a tract with a minimum of 50-foot buffers on either side of a stream. In urban areas, finding such wide swaths of uninterrupted land posed great challenges.

Leading up to this vote, the League worked for several years with members of the EMC and the N.C. Division of Water Quality (DWQ) to recommend changes to the state's buffer program that would allow cities easier ways to comply with buffer mandates in urban areas. In urging EMC members to accept rule language that would ease restrictions on buffer mitigation in urban areas, League members hoped to undertake more projects in the urban areas that often need the most water body protection. Many N.C. streams in developed areas have been listed as impaired waters on the state's 303(d) list.

In 1999, the state legislature recognized this and other challenges and directed the EMC to write rules that would allow for expanded buffer mitigation options. In response, the EMC debated multiple proposals beginning in 2009 and held two public hearings on the final proposal during a comment period that ended in March. Read the League's final set of comments submitted in March.

Specific Items Help Cities

The rule package passed by the EMC provided all entities undertaking development more options to comply with their buffer mitigation obligations. Some options included lower ratios for on-site mitigation, allowances that gave buffer mitigation credit for wooded buffers planted along Outer Coastal Plain headwater streams, credit for mitigation on intermittent or perennial streams, and credit for structural stormwater treatment measures that were not required by a state or federal rule or permit.

Specifically of interest to cities, the EMC adopted the League's recommended options to open up areas along urban streams for buffer mitigation through the following tools:

  • Preservation of buffers on subject streams. The rules now allow preservation of buffers along streams in urban areas at a 3:1 buffer credit ratio, with allowances for reduced credit at these urban sites if full preservation is not practical.
  • Narrower buffers on urban streams. The rules now allow buffer restoration or enhancement with widths less than fifty feet on urban streams. In addition, in an effort to encourage mitigation when buffer space is limited in these urban areas, the rules will allow credit for these activities on a sliding scale, awarding more credit when more buffer is preserved.
  • Allowing buffers in certain sewer easements. The rules have opened up the possibility of using land in certain sewer easements. This item, a priority of League members, will assist in compliance with wastewater collection system permits that require land above sewer easements to remain clear of woody plants. Because DWQ traditionally encouraged only the planting of woody plants for mitigation credit in buffers, the practice conflicted with municipal wastewater collection system permits. Therefore, by allowing the planting of buffer vegetation "in a condition which meets the vegetative requirements of the collection system permit," the new rules will add to possible buffer mitigation sites in urban areas.

This proposal also replaced the state's current patchwork approach to buffer mitigation with one set of unified rules, eliminating the following buffer mitigation rules: Neuse River (15A NCAC 02B .0242), Catawba River (02B .0244), Randleman Lake (02B .0252), Tar-Pamlico River (02B .0260), Jordan Lake (02B .0268), and Goose Creek Watershed (02B .0609).


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League Intervention Saves Millions on Municipal Water, Wastewater Energy Bills

With the backing of a large coalition of N.C. cities called the NC Municipal Energy Group (NC-MEG), the League secured millions in savings on energy costs for municipal water and wastewater operations in the Progress Energy Carolinas service area last month. NC-MEG is a group of over one hundred League members who have supported the League to contract with specialized outside legal counsel that represented cities and towns in negotiations with the state's investor-owned utilities and the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). This year, NC-MEG supported the League's intervention in both the Progress Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Carolinas rate cases.

The goal of the League’s interventions was to reduce the financial burden that an increase in electricity rates would bring upon municipal governments served by each utility. Increases in electricity rates can significantly impact municipal budgets, particularly in those cities and towns providing such services as water and wastewater treatment, street lighting, traffic signals, and recreational facilities.

Intervention in a rate case is the only way to advocate for reduced increases.

The NCUC issued a final order in the Progress rate case May 31, while a stipulation agreement was filed in the Duke rate case yesterday.

Savings in Progress Rate Case

In the Progress rate case -- the first for the company in over two decades -- the company agreed to a stipulation agreement that cut its requested rate increase in half. This stipulation came as a result of the intervention of the League and other groups. The NCUC agreed with most aspects of the stipulation when writing its order, which contains several other key provisions that resulted in further savings for League members.

Over 50% reduction in Progress' requested rate increase. As a result of the League's and other groups' intervention in this rate case and the company's negotiations with the Public Staff, the consumer advocate arm of the NCUC, the overall rate increase to municipalities is 4.5% in the first year, rising to 5.5% in the second year and thereafter. These figures represent a 50% reduction from Progress' original requested rates.

The proposed rate increases varied depending on the rate schedule for a particular user's rate class; the following categories applied to cities and towns:

 

Street lighting service Traffic signalization service Small general service Medium general service Large general service

Originally requested net rate increase percentage

11.4 percent 12.9 percent 13.2 percent 11.2 percent 6.0 percent

The final order revealed substantially smaller increases to these rate classes:

Average net rate increase percentage Street lighting service Traffic signalization service Small general service Medium general service Large general service
Year 1 4.9 percent 4.8 percent 4.3 percent 3.4 percent 2.7 percent
Year 2 and after 4.9 percent 5.4 percent 5.1 percent 4.5 percent 3.6 percent

Industrial Economic Recovery (IER) rider rejected. This proposal by the utility would have reduced rates for industry customers (not generally municipal usage rate classes) and shifted the cost to other customers by increasing all other customers' rates in an effort to preserve industrial jobs. Numerous groups, including the League, protested the fairness of the rider and the NCUC agreed, rejecting the request. As a result, the savings to municipalities in the Progress service area are at least $112,000 for street lighting and traffic signalization, with an additional 0.084 cents/kWH per month for all other electricity usage.

1CP methodology will be used to allocate fixed capacity costs. Another aspect in the final order that resulted in savings to municipal water and wastewater treatment operations came in the methodology Progress must use to calculate its production and transmission fixed capacity costs between customer classes. The NCUC ordered Progress to use a methodology called "summer coincident peak" (1CP), which did not further increase rates for municipal customers. The alternate methodology rejected in this case would have disproportionately impacted high-load factor customers charged under rate classes most commonly applied to water and wastewater treatment facilities: medium general service and large general service.

Study of time-of-use (TOU) rates ordered. TOU rates generally incentivize users to consume energy during off-peak times, resulting in savings to users that can wisely manage their energy consumption. Many water and wastewater treatment operations can shift their energy usage to these off-peak times and would benefit from robust TOU rates. In this case, the NCUC ordered Progress to complete a study of its TOU hours to ensure accurate cost reflection within two years, including an evaluation of its current TOU rate schedules. In addition, the NCUC ordered Progress to specifically examine issues related to water and wastewater treatment facilities raised by the League in its testimony.

For a more technical explanation of the NCUC order in the Progress case and its effect on cities and towns in the Progress service area, read this detailed memo written for NC-MEG members by the attorneys representing the League in this intervention.

Duke Case Stipulation Agreement

Arguments made and concessions won in the Progress case as a result of the League's intervention have set the stage for the Duke case currently underway. The League filed to intervene in this case earlier this spring and filed testimony for four witnesses yesterday (available here):

Since filing for intervention, much has already happened in this case. As a result of the terms of the Progress order and the efforts of all interveners and the Public Staff, Duke agreed to a stipulation agreement yesterday similar to that in the Progress case. While the NCUC is not bound by the terms of a stipulation agreement, as in the Progress case described above, the Commission typically uses the agreement as a guide when fashioning its final order. That order would likely come early this fall.

Key provisions include:

  • Over 50% reduction in Duke's requested rate increase. Similar to the Progress case, Duke and the Public Staff agreed to an overall rate increase of 4.5% for municipalities for the next two years, rising to an overall increase of 5.1% beginning in the third year. If the NCUC included these terms in its final order, for a Duke service area utility like the Orange Water & Sewer Authority, the reduction would save over $65,000 in the next fiscal year. If the NCUC did not make changes to Duke's requests for the rate schedules affecting the Authority's operations, that rate increase would instead be $125,000/year.
  • No Industrial Economic Recovery rider. In the stipulation agreement with the Public Staff, Duke withdrew its proposal for an Industrial Economic Recovery rider, instead asking the NCUC to consider the rider on a separate docket. This particular rider, the same described above in the Progress case, would have harmed non-industrial users such as municipal water and wastewater treatment operations. In the Progress case, the League argued for the NCUC to reject this rider on the grounds that it was unfair to non-industrial customers. The NCUC agreed with that position.
  • Fixed capacity allocation will be based on the 1CP methodology. As in the Progress order described above, the 1CP methodology will be used in this rate case to allocate Duke's fixed capacity costs. Using this methodology will avoid disproportionately high costs to water and wastewater treatment facilities, street lights, and traffic signals.

Duke Case Next Steps

The NCUC scheduled a hearing in this case for July 8 in Raleigh. The League's pre-filed testimony for this case made the following requests:

  • Increase the financial incentives for energy-efficient and renewable energy generation projects to make these projects more viable for water and wastewater treatment facilities.
  • Create an LED rate schedule with utility-owned and customer-owned options that would favor the installation of more cost-effective LED street lighting (similar to a schedule already in place for Progress).
  • Revise the PowerShare rider to broaden the eligibility criteria and reduce the penalties for non-performance.
  • Implement an electronic data interchange to obtain billing for each of a municipality's many accounts in one place.

After the hearing, each intervening party will have an opportunity to submit a post-hearing brief to make further arguments and solidify positions litigated at the hearing. Then, the NCUC will likely issue a final order in this case in the fall.


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Water Supply Bills

This article will highlight two water supply bills of interest to cities and towns that received consideration in the past month. Read about previously-introduced water supply bills of note in the March, April, and May editions of EcoLINC. Clicking on any bill title will take you to the League's bill tracking service, which includes bill summaries, the League's position and tracking level for the bill, and information on bill status pulled from the N.C. General Assembly website.

  • Inter-basin transfer. SB 341 Amend Interbasin Transfer Law, a multi-faceted bill that makes incremental changes to the state's interbasin transfer (IBT) laws, passed the Senate in early May and now awaits House action. The House Environment Committee calendared this bill two weeks ago but did not give the bill a hearing during that meeting. Read a detailed description of this bill in the May edition of EcoLINC.
  • Irrigation contractors installing backflow prevention devices. In a substantial rewrite of HB 662 Limited License/Install Backflow Assemblies earlier this month, the Senate would allow the State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinklers Contractors to issue a limited license to qualifying persons to install and service backflow prevention assemblies. Backflow prevention devices protect drinking water systems from being contaminated by intersecting lines carrying non-potable water. Presumably, the Board would engage in rulemaking to establish the necessary qualifications for persons applying for the limited license (likely licensed irrigation contractors). In a different form detailed in last month's EcoLINC, the bill unanimously passed the House at the end of April. However, the House voted yesterday not to concur with this revised Senate version of the bill, setting up a conference committee to work through differences.

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Stormwater Bills

This article will highlight four stormwater bills of interest to cities and towns that received consideration in the past month. Read about previously-introduced stormwater bills of note in the MarchApril, and May editions of EcoLINC. Clicking on any bill title will take you to the League's bill tracking service, which includes bill summaries, the League's position and tracking level for the bill, and information on bill status pulled from the N.C. General Assembly website.

  • Stormwater fast-track permitting. After the Senate passed HB 480 Environmental Permitting Reform with no changes to the House version, Governor McCrory signed the bill into law Wednesday. This regulatory reform bill created a fast-track permitting program for issuance of stormwater permits to individual developments for post-construction controls. To do so, it directed the N.C. Environmental Management Commission to place into rules a set of minimum design criteria for various stormwater devices. If a device designer sealed the design as complying with that criteria, the design would bypass technical review and receive automatic approval. Throughout consideration of the bill, primary sponsor Rep. Chris Millis stated his intention for the bill not to apply to local government development approval processes. The League identified ambiguities in the law's language on this point and requested a technical correction to match Rep. Millis's intent.
  • Jordan Lake Rules. During crossover week last month, the Senate passed a drastically changed version of SB 515 Jordan Lake Water Quality Act. In its Senate-approved version, the bill would repeal the Jordan Lake Rules nutrient management strategy. It would also direct a seven-month legislative study of water quality issues in the lake, with a report due to the N.C. General Assembly when it convenes in May 2014. Two Triad legislators introduced the bill, and in Senate debates, they spoke of the negative economic impacts the Rules have had on development in upstream communities. They also stated that the Rules as written had not improved water quality in the lake, and therefore, an alternate clean-up approach should be considered. These water quality rules, the first of their kind in the state, were implemented by the legislature in 2009 and have been subject to legislative revision every year since then. Numerous cities and towns affected by the nutrient management strategy requested changes to the bill this session, particularly for certain stormwater-related provisions. Some of these requested changes were included in the introduced version of this bill. The League expects the House to revisit these suggestions as it considers this proposal. The House has assigned the bill to the House Environment Committee.
  • Transfer environmental permits. A bill that would streamline development in the event of a change in ownership of the developing property was ratified by the full N.C. General Assembly and sent to Governor McCrory last week. HB 279 Transfer Environmental Permits would allow the state or any local government operating a delegated sedimentation/erosion control program to transfer an approved sedimentation/erosion control plan, under certain conditions, including that there will be no substantial change or modification of the project covered by the plan that would affect any requirement of the plan.
  • Allow use of DOT stormwater BMPs. What began as a local stormwater bill applying only to Winston-Salem turned into a bill with statewide application when approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last month. SB 294 Allow Use of DOT Stormwater BMPs now would allow all local governments the option of using the N.C. Department of Transportation's (NCDOT) best management practices, as outlined in the "Stormwater Best Management Practices Toolbox," when undertaking linear transportation projects such as roads and greenways. However, at the request of NCDOT and contractors, the revised bill also applied to the construction of private linear transportation projects. This expanded scope could make it more difficult for cities to comply with the terms of their own stormwater permits. The League is working with the bill sponsor to secure changes that would eliminate this negative impact on cities while maintaining the flexibility offered under the bill. After passing the Senate with only one dissenting vote, the bill was assigned to the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development.

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Utility Operations Bills

This article will highlight five utilities operations bills of interest to cities and towns that received consideration in the past month. Read about previously-introduced utility operations bills of note in the March, April, and May editions of EcoLINC. Clicking on any bill title will take you to the League's bill tracking service, which includes bill summaries, the League's position and tracking level for the bill, and information on bill status pulled from the N.C. General Assembly website.

  • Utility line location design requests. Following a House rewrite of the original Senate bill, the N.C. General Assembly ratified SB 9 Utilities/Design/Survey Location Services and sent the bill to the Governor last week. This bill would affect procedures followed by water and wastewater utilities pursuant to the state's underground digging laws. These laws are also known as the "811" laws named after the "call before you dig" phone number excavators must dial to notify utilities -- including water and wastewater utilities -- of planned digging activities. SB 9 addressed requests for utility line location for design activities such as surveying, rather than planned digging activities. The proposal originally circumvented a more comprehensive overhaul of the state's underground digging laws in which the League participated in negotiations as an active stakeholder. However, the House-approved language in SB 9 now aligns with language negotiated in the broader stakeholder effort. The League expects the language approved in SB 9 to appear in the overhaul bill, HB 476 Rewrite Underground Damage Prevention Act.
  • Design-build and public-private partnerships. With only minor changes, the Senate Committee on State and Local Government advanced a House-approved bill last week that would give all local governments the ability to utilize the design-build construction method and public-private partnership financing. The League supports HB 857 Public Contracts/Construction Methods/DB/P3, which sets out procedures for solicitation of design-build requests for qualifications as well as the requirements for public-private partnership project financing. The bill would allow these innovative tools for all non-transportation government projects. The bill next heads for review by the Senate Finance Committee. The League anticipates further minor modifications to the bill, particularly the public-private partnership section.
  • Takeover of water/sewer systems by Local Government Commission. With a unanimous House vote, the full N.C. General Assembly passed SB 207 Maintaining Water & Sewer Fiscal Health and sent the bill to Governor McCrory last week. The bill allowed the Local Government Commission (LGC) to take control of local water and sewer systems in the event that the utilities were found to have negative working capital, a quick ratio of less than 1.0, or a net loss of revenue in the system for three consecutive years. Under this new procedure, before the Commission could take control of the utility, it must notify the system of its problems and find that the financial stability of the utility was threatened and that the utility failed to make changes to correct its issues.
  • Penalties for tampering with water meters. Following approval by the House earlier this month, SB 634 Increase Penalties/Utilities Theft was ratified and signed by Governor McCrory Wednesday. This law increased penalties, including criminal penalties, for persons who tamper with or otherwise damage water and wastewater management equipment, including meters. It also instituted penalties for persons who reconnect water connections unlawfully when they have been disconnected by the utility provider.
  • Mandatory extension of water/sewer lines. Following a vote by the Durham City Council two weeks ago to deny extension of water and wastewater service to the hotly-debated 751 South project near Jordan Lake, the House Committee on Rules, Calendars, and Operations of the House approved SB 315 Municipal Services Tuesday. This bill would require extension of water and wastewater utilities to the project. The bill represented a compromise between Durham Sen. Floyd McKissick and Rep. Tim Moore, the legislator who pushed a different bill last session that attempted to require the city to provide utilities to this particular development. In addition to the utilities extension provisions, the bill approved last week would:
    • Annex the 751 South property as well as another nearby tract in ten years;
    • Require the developer to make certain road improvements;
    • Allow the City to charge the developer for the cost of installing infrastructure; and
    • Limit the City to charging twice its in-town water and sewer rates until the property was annexed.

    The bill's provisions would apply to any qualifying properties statewide that meet the narrow circumstances described in the bill within sixty days of its passage. The bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee.


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Regulatory Reform Bills

This article will highlight two regulatory reform bills of interest to cities and towns that received consideration in the past month. Read about previously-introduced regulatory reform bills of note in the February, March, April, and May editions of EcoLINC. Clicking on any bill title will take you to the League's bill tracking service, which includes bill summaries, the League's position and tracking level for the bill, and information on bill status pulled from the N.C. General Assembly website.

  • No fiscal note for rule repeal. With unanimous votes in both legislative chambers, the N.C. General Assembly passed HB 892 No Fiscal Note for Rule Repeal and sent it to Governor McCrory last week. The bill accomplished a regulatory goal chosen by League members to streamline the process for repealing unnecessary, unduly burdensome, or inconsistent rules. The bill achieved these reforms by relieving state agencies proposing to repeal an existing rule from the responsibility of preparing a fiscal note on that repealed rule.
  • Hydraulic fracturing. Two House committees swiftly considered a significant re-write of the Senate-approved version of SB 76 Domestic Energy Jobs Act, with the full House giving final approval just under two weeks ago (read details of this debate in "House OKs 'fracking' changes" from WRAL). For its part, the Senate voted last week not to concur with the House version of this bill, setting up a showdown between the two chambers through a late-session conference committee. Generally, the bill would change the process currently underway to approve rules regulating hydraulic fracturing, though the House-approved version differed significantly from the Senate version approved earlier this session. While the Senate version would have allowed the issuance of permits for hydraulic fracturing regardless of whether the legislature had approved the rules currently being written, the House version would not allow those permits to be effective until the legislature had approved the rules. In addition, important to cities and towns, the House version of this bill specifically directed the State to recommend the appropriate level of funding to recover all costs incurred by local governments related to emergency response for any hydraulic fracturing-related emergencies. Details from the Senate version of the bill could reappear during conference negotiations; both chambers would have to approve any final version before it could become law.

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Regulatory Briefs

DWQ estimates that its process for receiving approval of numeric nutrient criteria for North Carolina will take until 2019...Meanwhile, Ohio officials are asking EPA to approve their first-in-the-nation Nutrient Trophic Index, a regulatory tool supported by wastewater interests that measures impairment levels in waters by weighing biological response factors much more heavily than nutrient criteria...For the first time since April 2010, no area in North Carolina is in drought, thanks to rainfall from Tropical Storm Andrea earlier this month...DWR has revised the schedule for the ongoing Jordan Lake Water Supply Storage Allocation, now pegging presentation of the allocation to the EMC in November 2014...The state will accept comments on the draft 2013 Central Coastal Plain Capacity Use Area Assessment Report, which could spark changes to water withdrawal limits in the area, until July 17...A federal appeals court decision would severely restrict the practice of federal agencies such as EPA from implementing major policy initiatives under the guise of a consent decree between two parties, stating that it is an abuse of discretion for an agency to "enter a consent decree that permanently and substantially amends an agency rule that would have otherwise been subject to statutory rulemaking procedures"...National groups commented on EPA's national water quality assessment, a report that for the first time has integrated in a single document data that could be used to further regulate municipal wastewater and stormwater discharges, saying that the data is not representative and in any event cannot establish linkages between pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus and effects on the health of aquatic life in streams...Citing concerns over a federal Missouri flood control project, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) continues to maintain the only remaining block on the nomination of Gina McCarthy as the next EPA Administrator...Environmental groups will intervene in litigation over a proposed sanitary sewer infrastructure consent decree between EPA and Miami-Dade County, FL, asking EPA to consider the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise and salt-water intrusion into local aquifers, when crafting such decrees...President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum last month directing federal agencies, including EPA, to improve their permitting processes to speed up issuance of permits for federal infrastructure projects...The U.S. Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act last month with an overwhelming 83-14 vote; the bill includes a pilot water and wastewater infrastructure fund called the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act to fund projects over $20 million.
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NCLM and State Government Environmental Meetings & Events