The Senate environment committee approved a House bill that would require closer monitoring of businesses that store hazardous waste. The proposal includes many of the suggestions made after an explosion at a hazardous waste storage company in Apex that resulted in the evacuation of thousands of people. Under the bill, such companies would have to provide information to emergency workers about the types of chemicals they store and the state would have to consider increasing budgets for the state medical assistance teams that respond to hazardous waste incidents. House Bill 36 now goes to the full Senate.
Another Senate committee approved a bill, Senate Bill 150, that would dramatically increase the permitted cutting of vegetation around billboards from 250 to 375 feet. The bill does contain increased penalties for illegal cutting as well. The Department of Transportation had previously considered this request (originally proposing 500 feet of clearance) and turned it down after careful study, so the industry went to the legislature for the authorization. The DOT, Department of Environment, Sierra Club, and others, spoke out against the bill, which was approved on a voice vote. It now goes to Senate Finance.
On the renewable energy front, stakeholders continued to meet to work out differences over the proposed renewable energy portfolio standards, Senate Bill 3, House Bill 77. The Utilities have been quite insistent on the inclusion of provisions making it easier to build new nuclear and coal fired power plants. Duke's CEO has been quite clear in stating that Duke can't build new nuclear plants without these provisions. So it seems our renewable energy bill is also going to make it easier to finance and build new nuclear plants. We should have a bill in the next couple of weeks (although I have very little enthusiasm for running a renewable energy bill will nuclear power in it.)