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Spencer Nelson, a senior at UNC Chapel Hill and Chair of the Renewable Energy Committee in Student Government, recently authored the following essay highlighting some hopeful news on the renewable energy front:

Solar powerWin-win legislation would promote solar energy through market forces
By Spencer Nelson

Both business interests and environmental advocates are enthusiastic about two bills currently making their way through the North Carolina General Assembly that would help to sustain the growth of the state’s clean energy industry and provide more energy options to North Carolinians.

House Bill 245, “The Energy Freedom Act,” would allow the purchase of electricity from sources other than the local public utility, beginning the process of electricity deregulation in North Carolina. Currently, North Carolina is one of only five states that still have a complete ban on “third party sales” and it’s holding back the growth of renewables.

Third party sales simplify and reduce the price of renewable energy, especially solar. Residents or companies that want to buy solar energy enter a purchase agreement with a solar company like SolarCity. The solar company owns the panels and takes care of financing, while the consumer pays a monthly fee for energy from the solar panels. This bill allows cheap renewable energy without consumers worrying about taking out loans to buy panels or performing maintenance on their system, leaving the tricky aspects of solar energy to professionals.

In addition to helping North Carolina solar consumers, the Energy Freedom Act would have many positive effects on the economy. Read More

Commentary

Conservative politicians whose campaigns are funded by corporate interests love to talk about the “genius of the market” and “clamping down on burdensome business regulations.” And while there are no doubt many important virtues associated with both of those concepts, here’s what the genius of the market and business deregulation produce much too often in modern America: exploitation and rip-offs.

A new WRAL news story last night explored a classic example: the targeting of military personnel by scamming, high-cost sales outlets like USA Living. As reporter Monica Laliberte explained:

USA Discounters targeted the military with its patriotic vibe by posting advertisements on a Fort Bragg website and sponsoring military events. The company sells everything from furniture and TVs to jewelry and appliances and even car rims. It promises military members are “always approved for credit.”

Trill’s contract included fees of $1,057 for a warranty and $828.84 for debt cancellation, which covers the debt if something happens to him. The finance charge was $2,065.47. All paid, the furniture that was priced at $5,000 would ultimately cost him $10,513.88.

The next time someone feeds you the line about burdensome business regulations (like next week across the Thanksgiving table, for example) tell them about scams like this in which American heroes are targeted every day. And then remind them that this is why we have to have business regulation in America; not just to protect consumers (because if companies will rip off military families, you know they won’t hesitate to do the same to anyone else), but also to level the playing filed for businesses that operate ethically and honestly. After all, as the veteran/victim in the WRAL story noted:

“Is this the world we fought for? I mean, is this really what you fought for?” Trill said. “Everybody’s scamming everybody. Everyone’s trying to dip into your pockets for a little bit extra. It absolutely makes me sick.”

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Coal AshAt least two stories on the entity that seems to be fast becoming North Carolina’s Public Enemy #1 (Duke Energy) are worth your time this morning if you didn’t catch them last night.

First is this AP story about how Duke lobbyists undermined the efforts of environmental advocates last year by getting friendly legislators to slip a provision into an omnibus deregulation bill that did their bidding on coal ash regulations:

“Documents and interviews collected by The Associated Press show how Duke’s lobbyists prodded Republican legislators to tuck a 330-word provision in a regulatory reform bill running nearly 60 single-spaced pages.

Though the bill never once mentions coal ash, the change allowed Duke to avoid any costly cleanup of contaminated groundwater leaching from its unlined dumps toward rivers, lakes and the drinking wells of nearby homeowners….”

Second is this WRAL.com story about Duke pumping coal ash into a stream that leads to the Cape Fear River:

“Advocates with the Waterkeeper Alliance say pictures they released Monday of workers for Duke Energy pumping water from a coal ash pond into a stream that feeds the Cape Fear River shows the company violating state and federal clean water rules.

Duke officials don’t dispute they were pumping the water, but they say they were allowed to do so for maintenance work under current permits for the pond, which is at a retired power plant in Moncure.

‘To label the secret, unmitigated, intentional discharge of untold amounts of highly toxic wastewater as ‘routine maintenance’ seems ludicrous,’ said Peter Harrison of the Waterkeeper Alliance.”

 

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In case you missed it, the lead editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer neatly sums up the disastrous 59 page jumble of regulatory changes signed into law by Gov. McCrory last Friday. After noting that the measure was supposedly about “streamlining” regulatory processes, the editorial says this:

“On signing the bill, the governor repeated the sentiment, saying, ‘This common sense legislation cuts government red tape, axes overly burdensome regulations and puts job creation first here in North Carolina.’

Sounds logical and harmless. Except the bill is not what its title and the governor claim it is. It is illogical and dangerous. It is concessions to developers and polluters crammed into a massive bill that was rushed through the legislature in the crush of closing business.

This bill will ‘streamline’ regulatory process with a sledgehammer and blowtorch.”

Read the entire editorial and its detailed explanation of why the bill’s hodegpodge of new laws are not really about “reform” by clicking here.

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The Guv has hinted that he might try saying “no” to at least a couple of the General Assembly’s worst, last-minute absurdities (and it would be an amazing act of lap-dogginess if he doesn’t). So, if he does act, which ones will it be?

Over the weekend, Steve Ford at the N.C. Council of Churches neatly summarized three bills that seem to be at the top of the Governor’s potential “No” list:

“If Gov. Pat McCrory goes along with the General Assembly’s partial “disassembly” of state environmental rules – and if North Carolina loses significant ground in the battle against pollution, as likely would be the case – he won’t be able to say he wasn’t warned.

Fourteen of the state’s environmental groups have teamed up with a request that McCrory veto House Bill 74 – which they describe as a ’68-page compilation of special interest handouts.’ The so-called Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate and House in the closing hours of the legislative session that concluded on July 26, with environmental advocates strongly objecting….”

Read Steve’s entire column by clicking here.