PENC Action Group Communications Update 4/2/2018
Meetings with Lawmakers
Leaders from PENC’s Buildings Infrastructure & Sustainability Action Group met with lawmakers at the North Carolina General Assembly last week in conjunction with a legislative meeting of the Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform. In addition to attending the committee meeting, one-on-one meetings were held with committee chairman Rep. Mark Brody (R-Union), Rep. Larry Potts (R-Davidson), Rep. Rena Turner (R-Iredell), and Rep. Larry Strickland (R-Johnston). Reps. Brody and Potts are both contractors. These meetings gave PENC the opportunity educate legislators on PENC and the Buildings I&S Action Group, allowed legislators to give PENC members insight on the issues they’re facing or trying to solve, and continues PENC relationship-building efforts at the NCGA.
The Select Committee is reviewing legislative proposals to recommend to the full legislature during the 2018 short session that begins in May and are expected to be filed as bill by the committee chairs.
EPAC Luncheon with Senator Phil Berger, president of the NC Senate
March 26, Engineers PAC (EPAC) hosted a luncheon for the full engineering committee with Senator Phil Berger, the president of the North Carolina Senate. Berger shared an overview of the successes from the North Carolina General Assembly during his time as President, beginning in January 2011. Leaders and members across the engineering community, including EPAC, PENC, ACEC/NC, ASCE, NCSE and NC State’s College of Engineering attended the lunch at the Dorothy & Roy Park Alumni Center on Centennial Campus. Senator Berger encouraged engineers to be willing to talk about the good things you do. Lawmakers value the opinions of engineers and Senator Berger encouraged the audience to get to know their local elected officials and to get engaged. He also spent a lot of time answering questions during Q&A and talking one-on-one with attendees before and after the event. EPAC is excited to continue hosting events with lawmakers so please be on the lookout for the next event.
EPAC is the political action committee for engineers and operates off of personal contributions in order to participate in North Carolina’s political process by contributing to campaigns of candidates who value responsible engineering across all sectors. Please consider a personal contribution to EPAC. It’s a great way to engage in the critical election cycle of 2018 without having to engage independently with candidates. To contribute or find out more, visit https://penc.org/epac.
Other news of interest related to action groups can be found here.
Transportation Infrastructure & Sustainability
Water/Wastewater Infrastructure & Sustainability
Buildings Infrastructure & Sustainability
Transportation Infrastructure & Sustainability:
Short Session Proposals
Resources: Meeting Materials
Lawmakers on the House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions on Monday (4/2) discussed seven proposals for changes to transportation laws that could be brought before the General Assembly during the short session. One proposal would allow the Department of Transportation to waive environmental documents required by the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act for airports that are acquiring 40 acres or less of property for future development in counties where the population is greater than 1 million people, and the airport has a total annual enplanement of over 20 million passengers. Those requirements under the proposal would only impact the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Other proposals would clarify that the net proceeds from the sale of land or facilities that were purchased using the State Highway Fund would be deposited into the State Highway Fund, and authorize the NCDOT to acquire replacement right-of-way for a utility owner instead of reimbursing them the cost of relocating the utilities. Another proposal would effectively remove a salary cap on NCDOT engineer technician positions in the Highway Division. The proposal would allow the Secretary of Transportation to exempt positions from portions of the State Human Resources Act. By exempting the positions, the NCDOT would be able to use its own recruiting methods and salary scale. The exemption could be applied to current engineers and future hires. "It came to our attention that there was one category of employee ... that in some point in time in the department's history had gotten an arbitrary cap put on their wage earning ability," committee chairman Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, said on Monday. "What we are doing now is pretty much removing that, as I understand." He noted that the state is experiencing a shortage in those positions which has contributed to project delays. Committee members didn't vote on the proposed legislation on Monday. They will be voting on them in May. You can read more on the Committee’s website. (Lauren Horsch, THE INSIDER, 4/03/18)
Funding has finally been secured for trams that will serve customers on the new passenger ferry in Ocracoke village, with the state agreeing to provide up to half of the operating costs for four years. "It's great news," Hyde County Manager Bill Rich said during the March 23 Passenger Ferry Stakeholders Committee meeting in Manteo. "We are just totally stoked about it." Not only has the state promised to pay up to $90,000 for four years, he said, it is buying the trams and giving rather than leasing them to the county. "It's a tremendous commitment," Rich said. "It's going to make it happen." Read more about the ferry here.
Elizabeth City City Council has endorsed the idea of a new regional ferry project but isn't committing any city funding for it. Council voted 6-0 last week to adopt a resolution in support of the Harbor Town project that University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill business professor Nick Didow presented to local officials last month. Didow proposed creating a tourism-oriented ferry system that would transport people to communities around the Albemarle Sound. Didow estimated the ferry system would cost almost $14 million to start up and nearly $2 million a year to operate, but he said it could sustain itself while driving up tourism. "This project is being promoted as having the potential to significantly impact travel and tourism in our area," City Manager Rich Olson reported to council.
The proposed five-town ferry would be managed by a private nonprofit, the IBX Authority, and serve Elizabeth City, Edenton, Hertford, Columbia and Plymouth, he reported. Notably, Olson's memo does not include Kitty Hawk, which Didow proposed as a participant in the project. Olson also told council the city's resolution "does not include any monetary commitment on behalf of the city of Elizabeth City." Read more here.
No current updates. Most relevant regulatory reform action recently by the legislature are recommendations being considered by the House Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform, which can be seen here.
Water Resources, Water/Wastewater Infrastructure & Sustainability:
Water, water everywhere? No it's not, actually. And that's Cumberland County's problem. It's a recurring issue. When it comes to public water supply, large parts of this county come up dry. Some residents, even though they have water, have water contaminated by GenX. Many believe that building a county water program may be the solution to the continual problem. Read more about the Fayetteville water crisis here.
Buildings Infrastructure & Sustainability:
The House Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform presented a list of proposed legislative changes on Wednesday to much discussion from both committee members and stakeholders. There were three proposals that covered the N.C. Department of Insurance, local finance and revenue matters, and statutory authority and inspector responsibilities. One of the proposals includes asking for 10 new positions within the Department of Insurance to help train and education builders and code officials "and anyone else who needs to be brought up to speed" across the state, committee chair Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, said. "The whole purpose is to promote consistency across the state as far as interpretation of the building codes," Brody said. (Lauren Horsch, THE INSIDER, 3/30/18)
Energy Resource Stewardship
Cypress Creek Renewables, which is among the nation's largest solar installers, announced on Tuesday a $16,500 grant to Cape Fear Community College. "We went from Murphy to Manteo to find a partner like this," said Greg Gebhardt, Cypress Creek's director of government and community relations, while standing on the rooftop terrace of CFCC's year-old Advanced and Emerging Technologies building at the college's North Campus. Cypress Creek operates 140 solar farms in North Carolina. Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C. 7, was in attendance to support the announcement. Rouzer has been a vocal supporter of offshore drilling but also said he supports renewable energy initiatives in Eastern North Carolina. Read more about the partnership here.
The new owners of North Carolina dams that were the prize in a long-running fight with the state asked on Thursday that Duke Energy Corp. be forced to buy the hydropower generated. Cube Yadkin Generation asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission to declare that Duke Energy must buy electricity from the Yadkin River dams for 10 years. Duke Energy is required to buy its electricity under a 40-year-old federal clean-energy law, the division of Maryland-based Cube Hydro Partners said. The U.S. Supreme Court last month ended North Carolina's lawsuit over the dams started after previous owner Alcoa Corp. closed an aluminum plant that once employed 1,000 workers and started selling the electricity to commercial customers. North Carolina officials continue challenging the 2016 decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue a new license allowing the dams to operate until 2055. State officials have proposed taking over the dams as public property to stimulate local jobs and ensure control over the river's drinking water as the state's population rises. Read more here.
Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have been staging protests outside Gov. Roy Cooper's office this week, saying work on the interstate natural gas pipeline is damaging homes and property. The small but determined group of protesters said Cooper's administration made a mistake by issuing the required permits for the 600-mile pipeline to run through eight counties in eastern North Carolina, and they are calling for a one-year moratorium on pipeline construction activities. The $6 billion pipeline is being built by a group of utilities, including Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, and will carry natural gas from hydraulic fracturing wells in West Virginia and Pennsylvania to southeast North Carolina. Read more about the vigil in this article.
A fuel spill that occurred on Blue Ridge Energy's property at 2491 U.S. 421 S. in Boone has been completely cleaned up with no contamination of adjacent properties, according to BRE spokesperson Renee Whitener. "The geologist has completed testing and the spill is completely cleaned up," Whitener said on Wednesday. "Soil that was affected by the spill was removed and replaced with clean soil and the containment structures that were put in place as precautionary measures to prevent any potential runoff are being removed. The analysis showed no contamination of any adjacent property." Find more information about the spill and cleanup process here.