N.C. Senate to debate bill limiting implementation of CO2 regs as Obama releases final power plant rule

ScaryStairsUPDATE – Aug. 4, 2:15 p.m.: The Senate has moved H.B. 571 to Wednesday’s calendar.

RALEIGH – Tuesday the state Senate is set to debate House Bill 571, a measure that would prohibit state agencies from formulating a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants until the plan’s legality is determined. This comes a day after the Obama administration released the final version of the plan, which forces states to develop plans that favor natural gas and renewable-energy sources over coal, but that state officials say is unnecessary in North Carolina and will hike power bills.

“Not only will these new federal rules raise electricity rates,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement Monday, “they have the potential to jeopardize the success we’ve made in making North Carolina’s air the cleanest it’s been since we began tracking air quality back in the 1970s.”

The bill is likely to be amended on the floor if a deal holds that was struck when the bill passed the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources. During debate in committee, bill sponsor Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) told committee members that if they passed it out of the committee, she would work with Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Donald van der Vaart to allow the agency to at least work on the part of the EPA plan that is likely to pass constitutional muster in the courts. A group of states has already sued EPA over the plan’s constitutionality.

“If we cannot put forth any plan, we will be allowing the EPA to take over,” van der Vaart told committee members July 22. “Because this is a federal rule, we are going to challenge it as soon as it comes out. We have to have a plan that is compliant with the Clean Air Act so the EPA can’t say that North Carolina didn’t submit anything.”

Van der Vaart also told members that the state is ahead of schedule in meeting the 2030 power plant emissions requirements. But bill supporters of the bill said that they do not want the state spending time and money developing an emissions control plan that may eventually either end up on the cutting room floor or end up boosting energy costs for North Carolina’s citizens and businesses.