Saturday, July 28, 2007

Assorted Environmental Legislation

The Legislature has taken action on a variety of environmental issues:

Landfills. Senate Bill 1492, which proposes comprehensive changes to the state's landfill regulations, was approved by the Senate Friday. Senate Bill 716, which would extend the moratorium on new landfills for a year and has several of the noncontroversial changes from Senate Bill 1492 (I was a sponsor of the House companion, House Bill 1233), passed the House Environment Committee Friday. Rep. Pryor Gibson has stripped House Bill 1233 and made it a more industry friendly bill, but that has not been heard.

Nutrient Offset. This contentious issue has started moving as the session winds down. A bill passed last session that undid an Environmental Management Commission rule that set a mitigation fee for development in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico basins, and kept an artificially low fee in place. The Environmental Review Commission then studied this issue and considered alternatively higher fees. The realtor and developer lobby has pushed to keep the fees artificially low and inadequate to compensate for impact to the resource. On Friday, Senate Finance approved House Bill 589, which sets the fee at an intermediate level and refers the rule back to the EMC for further rulemaking.

Interbasin Transfer. On Friday, the Senate passed House Bill 820, which had been stripped of its contents to be replaced with the substance of Senate Bill 1421 (a bill addressing interbasin transfers, “IBT”) so that it can go back to the House for a concurrence vote, although the House has not discussed this highly contentious issue at all. The bill directs the EMC to tighten up its rules on transferring water between basins as well as requiring drought management measures equal to that in the donating basin. The bill does not contain a provision that would have undone the controversial Concord-Kannapolis transfer found in other IBT bills.

Impact Fees. Senate Bill 1180, sponsored by lieutenant governor candidate Sen Walter Dalton, which would severely restrict the ability of local governments to adopt impact fees for adequate facilities ordinances, has been sent to the Senate floor. The bill prohibits local governments from imposing impact fees or payments in exchange for project approval unless local government has explicit authority to do so under North Carolina law. Senate Bill 1152, requires that if a city or county illegally exacts a fee and is required by a court ruling to repay the fee, the local government must pay it back with 6% interest.

Billboards. Senate Bill 150 has also passed the Senate. This bill would allow billboard companies to substantially increase the area for cutting trees and other vegetation around billboards. It is not expected to move in the House this session.

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