RALEIGH – On a party-line vote the state Senate approved House Bill 571 on Wednesday, a bill that would prohibit state agencies from formulating a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants to comply with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The federal rule forces states to develop plans that favor natural gas and renewable-energy sources over coal, but many claim the rule is not consistent with the federal Clean Air Act. The state’s environmental agency chief was in the Senate chamber to show support for the bill.
The Senate passed an amendment to the bill proposed by Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Greensboro) to allow the state’s environmental agency to work on the part of the EPA plan that they say is likely to pass constitutional muster; the amendment also mandates that the state sue the Obama administration if the secretary found the rule inconsistent with the Clean Air Act.
Originally the bill prohibited the Department of Environment and Natural Resources from submitting a plan at all. DENR Secretary Donald van der Vaart, who has said he wants to challenge the federal rule, worried that a blanket prohibition on submitting a plan would place the state at the mercy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Because this is a federal rule, we are going to challenge it as soon as it comes out,” van der Vaart said when the bill was in a Senate committee July 22. “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.”
In July van der Vaart also said 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. The amended bill now goes back to the House.