For a legislature that is supposed to be focused on creating jobs, the N.C. General Assembly seems bent on alienating fledgling industries and driving away others.
Rep. Mike Hager, (R-Burke, Rutherford), a former Duke Energy engineer, gained traction last week in his ongoing effort to kill the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS).
REPS, established in 2007, mandated that utility companies provide increasing percentages of energy from renewable sources. This policy spurred $2.7 billion in renewable energy investment and the creation of 36,885 clean-energy jobs between 2007 and 2013, and the state now ranks first in the Southeast and fourth nationally in overall solar capacity.
Hager’s first attempt to kill REPS failed in 2013, and another bill filed last year never came to a vote.
When a similar bill filed this session was voted down in committee, Hager added the substance of the bill as an amendment to Regulatory Reform Act of 2015.
Under REPS, utilities were required to buy 3 percent renewable energy as of 2012, 6 percent in 2015, 10 percent by 2018 and 12.5 percent by 2021. Hager’s amendment capped the requirement at 6 percent and set it to expire altogether in 2018.
After push back from supporters of renewable energy, a compromise amendment approved late Wednesday caps the rate permanently at 6 percent and repeals an 80 percent property-tax break that solar farms and facilities now receive.
“It saves REPS but freezes it,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), who fought to establish the standards in 2007.
It also adds a commission to study long-term energy needs in the state.
“That gives people a lot of concern, because we’re not sure who’s going to be on that commission,” Harrison said. “A lot of those lately have been stacked in favor of anti-renewable energy conservatives.
“It’s unfortunate, but it allows us to keep making the case for renewable energy.”
The bill is up for a second reading Tuesday and will be debated again, Harrison said.
More opposition to RFRA
Another poll has confirmed that most North Carolinians oppose discrimination against gay and lesbian customers based on religion. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act introduced in the state legislature in March would allow just that.
The Elon Poll conducted April 20-24 found that 63 percent of registered voters disagree with that law, with the greatest disapproval among young people, women and Democrats. More than half of Republicans (51 percent) in the state agree that businesses should have that right.
The results of a left-leaning Public Policy Polling survey earlier this month found 56 percent of the state’s residents opposed to discrimination against gay customers.
Prominent national companies who do business in the state have also voiced opposition to the measure, including IBM, homegrown tech company Red Hat and American Airlines. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory openly questioned the need for the bill but has stopped short of saying he would veto it.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said last week the House would not act on the bill this session. This is further evidence that the bill should be buried permanently.
Community at work
Amy Murphy said she wanted to thank artist Bill Mangum and John Rutledge at Piedmont Graphics for printing The Little Green Book, which lists times, days and locations for free meals available in Greensboro.
Murphy, known as the “Chicken Lady” for the meal she helps provide, turned the list into a book and printed as many copies as she could. But the demand far outstripped what she could afford to print.
Mangum volunteered to pay for printing, and Rutledge, does Mangum’s printing, volunteered to do so free of charge. So far, Murphy has delivered copies to 34 locations, including the Department of Social Services, the Montagnard Dega Association, Greensboro Urban Ministry, Guilford County Health Department, Greensboro Housing Coalition, Interactive Resource Center, Senior Services of Guilford County, Youth Focus and Faith Action International.
As word gets out, more agencies and churches are requesting copies.
“Not only are people gaining access to information, but our sense of community is being strengthened,” Murphy wrote in a thank-you letter. “I want to express my gratitude for your generosity. It has had far-reaching effects. As my Montagnard friends always say, God will bless you mightily.”
I would have to agree.