- The chair of the powerful North Carolina Senate Finance Committee reportedly pushed a controversial energy bill out of his committee though a voice vote, over objections from legislators on both sides of the aisle, the News and Observer reports.
- Though House Bill 332 was originally an uncontroversial proposal to allow natural gas utilities to recover infrastructure costs, several contentious renewable energy amendments were added this week by GOP State Rep. Mike Hager.
- To obtain passage, Senator Bob Rucho (R) reportedly ruled out discussion of the amendments, forced a voice vote despite committee members’ call for a vote count, and declared victory for the "yes" vote, although several committee members' claims there were more “no” votes.
Rep. Hager’s amendments would:
- Freeze the state’s renewables mandate at 6% of a utility’s retail sales, instead of allowing it to rise to 10% by 2018 and 12.5% by 2021,
- Reduce the size of certain renewables projects eligible for standard offering contracts under PURPA to no more than 100 kW.
Two Republican Senators complained of Sen. Rucho’s tactics. The voice vote of “no” on the bill, numbered HB 332 in the Senate, "wasn’t even close," according to seven-term GOP State Senator Jerry Tillman, who is also the majority whip. Democratic Senator Jeff Jackson tweeted Rucco displayed “a raw abuse of power.”
Just watched raw abuse of power in Finance committee. A bill got more Nays than Ayes but was deemed "passed" and meeting adjourned. #ncga— Sen. Jeff Jackson (@JeffJacksonNC) May 20, 2015
The News & Observer reports that Democratic Leader Dan Blue called for a "division" of the vote, which would have required the chair to count each vote individually. Rucho maintained that he as chair had the authority to follow through with the voice vote.
North Carolina Senate Rule 26 requires anyone calling for a division of the vote must ask for it before the results of a voice vote are annouced, which is reportedly what occured in the HB 332 vote.
The debate in North Carolina’s legislature this session also includes:
SB 372, just signed by Governor McCrory, which gives renewables investors and developers with projects in advanced stages of development the certainty needed to advance projects despite interconnection delays.
The proposed HB 97 would extend the state’s expiring 35% Investment Tax Credit two more years for solar and four more years for CHP, geothermal, wind, various bio-energies, and other renewables.
SB 284 would extend PACE financing for five years.
North Carolina regulators earlier this year rejected a proposal by the state’s utilities to reduce standard PURPA contract sizes.