North Carolina’s New Climate Legislation

A major, bipartisan step forward in an unlikely state.

Last week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an important piece of climate legislation.  I wrote last month about major, bipartisan climate legislation in Illinois.  Like the Illinois law, the North Carolina law enjoyed broad bipartisan support.  The North Carolina legislature is under firm Republican. Nevertheless, the bill passed the state senate by a 42 to 7 vote and the state house by 90 to 20, before being signed by the Democratic governor.

North Carolina today gets over half of its power from fossil fuels, about 25% from coal and 33% from natural gas. Nuclear accounts for another third, and renewables are only 11% including hydro and biomass.  Solar is at 5% and wind is under 1l%.  Obviously, the state has a long way to go in the energy transition.

The new bill seeks to put North Carolina on the road to carbon neutrality. Here’s the key provision of the law:

The Utilities Commission shall take all reasonable steps to achieve a seventy percent (70%) reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted in the State from electric generating facilities owned or operated by electric public utilities from 2005 levels by the year 2030 and carbon neutrality by the year 2050.

By the end of next year, the commission must to develop a plan for reaching these goals involving the “least cost path.”

There are also specific provisions for specific sources of generation.  Regarding solar power, at least  55% must come from utility-owned facilities, while up to 45% can be purchased from small third-party generators.  The bill provides a financing plan for retiring coal-fired plants through refinancing the remaining value of the facilities through low-interest, ratepayer-backed bills.

Perhaps the most controversial portion of the bill changes the mechanism for setting electricity rates. Instead of an annual regulatory process, the bill establishes a three year cycle and allows the utility to raise rates by up to 4% in the other two years of the cycle. Industry and consumers are worried by rate increases, while others view this as favorable to Duke . It may also help break the link between the utility’s revenues and total energy use, thereby giving the utility more of an incentive to promote energy efficiency.

There are obvious concessions to the utility in the bill, but it does represent a major step forward in a state that has had bitter partisan divisions. My mother was fond of saying that one swallow doth not a summer make. Nor do two. Nevertheless, there’s ground for hope in these recent bipartisan moves in North Carolina and Illinois.

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Reader Comments

3 Replies to “North Carolina’s New Climate Legislation”

  1. Prof. Farber, I must implore you one more time because I Shall Never Give Up on the issue of Protecting Quality of Life For Our Newest and All Future Generations:

    Will you and your intellectual colleagues please motivate politicians in Congress to make the right things happen with the required sense of urgency to protect quality of life for the human race, because you are the most educated, experienced and qualified to do so, especially as professors who teach students to do the right things, and understand what must be done to overcome the failures of our political system, before time runs out for your students and our newest generations.

    One most disturbing fact about climate change consequences we are experiencing today, that proves the urgency of Greta’s exhortations is “over 50 per cent of all our CO2 emissions have occurred since 1990, and a third since 2005.” This fact alone is terrifying, we truly are like frogs in boiling water today, especially since “350 or Bust” used to be the safe upper limit motto for us to avoid runaway climate change, and now we are above 410 ppm.

    However, I ask this while knowing full well THE MOST INCONVENIENT TRUTH OF ALL since the first Earth Day 1970 is UN, political and intellectual leaders have wasted decades through denial and inaction. And as you and your colleagues have informed us many times, today we are running out of time to adapt to the point where WE ABSOLUTELY MUST COMMIT TO AND IMPLEMENT SOLUTIONS to accomplish the necessary goals this year or we may truly go “Bust” any time in this century if we haven’t already (Googling just adds confusion that doesn’t help at all in this age of political (The Big Lie) and social (Anti-Vax) chaos (magnified by the power of money – such as the betrayal of the human race to fossil fuel indenturement by republican politicians and Sen. Manchin) that also threatens us most gravely, something that even Ike warned us about in 1961.

    Prof. Farber, you know the urgency today better than anyone on the planet since you are a Preeminent Environmentalist based on all you have written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation for over 40 years, there is no one more qualified than you to motivate Congress to Save the Human Race.

    You truly are our Best and Last Resort.

  2. Well Prof. Farber, you never give up on what you write and I have made every effort to never give up either, but, by now I have thought about and commented on posts so much, I am now coming to the inescapable conclusion that once again, even with our newest civiliztion which has had every opportunity to maximize and perpetuate quality of life for the human race, that the Durants are tragically most correct when they concluded that failures by political and intellectual leaders are the ultimate failure mode for civilizations, now apparently even ours. We have reached the point of no return today where we cannot save ourselves from ourselves, our inventions and discoveries when it comes to controlling the global warming we are producing today because of that failure mode again.

    Cal had a lot to do with motivating me to make the right things happen to accomplish my goals in life and I greatly suceeded in my profession and with my family, but to the point where I failed to take the news more seriously until I was retired after 40 years, and lost my wife to cancer after 60 years of Joie de Vivre, and had time to think about reality whether I liked it or not. As I have said before, Edward Teller was one role model for me who told some members of my graduating class that he predicted fusion power generators would be built by the end of the 20th century, but I have now come to realize, the hard way, the reality that the power of money and the military-industrial complex made Teller’s Dream impossible.

    Also, President Eisenhower warned us about that in his 1961 Farewell Address. And those kinds of failures still prevent us from passing on a legacy of an acceptable quality of life today, even though historians like the Durants also warned us that our institutional leaders must meet the challenges of change or our civilization shall fail, and today climate change disasters are proving we are too late to save quality of life because our leaders won’t cooperate in time.

    Unfortunately, this means I am now forced to realize that even though you may be our best and last resort, even you are held back from achieving an impossible dream like Teller was, because of the same realities.

    I would still love to believe in Never Give Up until we win the battle for an acceptable survival, but we keep proving the human brain has definitely failed to evolve in time to make it possible. So, after a great deal of study and commenting I find I have no choice but to conclude that the answer to the California Magazine 2006 “Global Warning” issue cover story question “Can we adapt in time?” is most tragically “No” since there really is no way for you to accomplish the survival task I beseeched of you and your intellectual colleagues, to motivate politicians in Congress to make the right things happen with the required sense of urgency to protect and perpetuate an acceptable quality of life for the human race.

    The overpowering truth is that too many politicians are dedicated to dominating, Self Before Country, even if it is at the cost of the human race.

    FINIS: https://alumni.berkeley.edu/california-magazine/september-october-2006-global-warning/can-we-adapt-time

  3. I support Greta Thunberg, and the generations she represents, 100%.

    It is time for the generations you and I represent to get out of their way and support them at least 100% because we have failed to honor the legacy from sacrifices by The Greatest Generation that created the greatest opportunities in history for us. Instead, we indentured ourselves to the power of money, per Eisenhower and many others of that generation. We created the most corrupt institutions in history, institutions that now threaten the survival of the human race like none other in history.

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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