Friday, April 27, 2007

Environmental and Energy Issues

The House Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources, on which I sit, approved House Bill 36, requiring that companies that store hazardous waste face closer monitoring, more frequent inspections, and better disclosure of the nature of the hazardous items stored on site . The legislation, which moves to the full House next week, seeks to prevent disasters such as the Oct. 9, 2006 fire at a chemical plant in Apex, which blanketed the town with a toxic haze and resulted in its evacuation for two days. The bill incorporates recommendations made by the Hazardous Waste Materials Task Force, which was formed by the Governor after the blaze. Key components of the bill provide first responders and residents with information needed for safely responding to such emergencies.

Senator Dole has finally weighed in opposition to the Navy's plans for an outlying landing field proposed for Beaufort and Washington Counties. The Navy's preferred site would result in the condemnation of thousands of acres of farmland, most of which has been in families for generations. The site is also adjacent to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, which attracts more than 100,000 artic tundra swan and other migrating waterfowl. The Navy's solution to removing the danger posed by the birds getting sucked into jet engines- poison and shoot them. With the majority of the state's delegation firmly opposed to the plan, it seems to have little traction.

Citizens in the western part of the county are concerned about the Heart of the Triad's proposed plans for development of a 6300 acre area which includes farms that have also been held by families for more than a century. Rep Larry Brown has asked the state auditor's office to look into the expenditure of a $200,000 DOT grant meant to deal with air quality non-attainment issues, but may have instead been spent on road planning through these farms. I have been very concerned about the plan and a group of us at the legislature have been working together to ensure that the citizens impacted will have a voice in the matter. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to provide even more funding for the planning, which seems to be largely driven by development and realtor interests.

Representatives Grier Martin, Jim Harrell, Carolyn Justice, and I have sponsored, House Bill 77, which would mandate that a certain percentage of our state's energy usage come from renewable energy sources as well as energy efficiency, creating a renewable energy and efficiency portfolio standard (REPS). The bipartisan bill will stimulate a market for renewable energy production in NC as well as reduce our carbon emissions, as occurred in the 23 other states that have adopted such standards. The House Energy Committee, which I chair, should begin hearing the bill within the next two weeks.

No comments: