public policy advocacy for the professional engineer                                       March 6, 2013

SB 10 – Government Reorganization and Efficiency Act
Earlier this week, the House gave final approval to legislation that would sweep aside a number of current state board and commission appointees before their terms would have expired.  The Senate yesterday received these changes and voted not to concur with the House bill, setting up negotiation between the two chambers that would result in a compromise bill.  The Senate’s displeasure with the House bill primarily focuses on the House provision that would restore a dozen special Superior Court judgeships eliminated in the original Senate bill.

Background:  The original Senate bill, among other things, eliminated a number of current state board and commission appointees in an effort to give the Governor an opportunity to appoint “like-minded” individuals.  PENC opposed parts of this bill because it eliminated the requirement for a Professional Engineer appointment to the Environmental Management Commission.  However, last week, the House not only restored the PE qualification and allowed this individual to serve through June, 2015, it also included two appointments for individuals experienced in engineering in the coastal area to the Coastal Resources Commission and, also added Engineering as an experience and competency qualification for persons serving on the powerful NC Utilities Commission. 

Action:  PENC strongly supports the House version of SB 10 and encourages our members to contact your legislators urging them to retain the Engineering qualifications for the EMC, CRC and Utilities Commission included in the House bill.  

Governor McCroy recently appointed Don M. Bailey, PE (Union County) to the NC Utilities Commission.  Bailey is the primary energy engineer at ATI Allvec. He has been a professional engineer in North Carolina since 1979. Read More

SB 76 – Domestic Energy Jobs Act
Engineers Speak Out on Fracking Waste Disposal

On Monday, the News and Observer reported on a provision included in SB 76 recently passed by the Senate and now before the House that would lift the ban on using deep well injections for industrial waste disposal.  The legislation, which is a signal to the oil-and-gas industry that North Carolina is eager to host shale gas exploration activities, would also lift the state’s fracking moratorium in March 2015.

The current injection proposal included in SB 76, shifts the debate from the center of the state, where much of the fracking would occur, to the coastal communities where the disposal wells would have to be drilled. 

Rep. Rick Catlin, a Professional Engineer from Wilmington serving in the State House, states that “this issue will be very controversial”.  Representative Mike Hager, an Engineer that chairs the House Public Utilities Committee said the implications of lifting the waste disposal ban are so far-reaching they raise serious doubts and will require further study.

Bill sponsor Sen. E.S. “Buck” Newton said the concerns may be premature. He said such injections are an accepted method of disposal and have been successfully done hundreds of thousands of times in the United States.

However, Catlin urges caution, “You’re basically contaminating an aquifer forever,” Catlin said. “Please don’t inject any down here.”

Read more here.

HB 10 – Remove Route Restrictions for NC 540 Loop Adds Removal of Funding for Three Turnpike Projects

In the Senate Transportation Committee today, Senator Bill Rabon surprised visiting House member, Nelson Dollar who was presenting HB 10 to the Senate committee by amending his bill to include removing authorization and funding from three turnpike authority projects:  Garden Parkway, Mid-Currituck and the Cape Fear Skyway.  The amended bill received a favorable report, was immediately placed on the Senate calendar for today and passed second reading. 

Dollar’s original bill was promoted as a way to appease the FHA who threatened to oppose funding the 540 extension unless the route restrictions, imposed in a previous law, were removed.  The Army Corps of Engineers requires that at least two proposed routes be studied before it will issue an environmental permit to allow highway construction to begin, and federal officials wanted to compile statistics on the impact each possible route would have on homes, businesses and the environment. 

New Bills Filed:

HB 201 (Torbett) – Reinstate 2009 Energy Conservation Codes.  An Act to reinstate the 2009 North Carolina Energy Conservation Codes and Repeal the 2012 North Carolina Energy Conservation Codes. Read More

HB 222 (Moffitt) – Buncombe County/Use Design-Build Methods.  An Act to allow Buncombe County to use the design-build method of construction. Read More

SB 163 (Jackson, Cook, Rabin) - Protect Landowners’ Water Rights. An Act to enhance the protection of landowners’ water rights. Read More

SB 171 (Jackson, Brock and Davis) – Limit Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. An Act to prohibit state agencies and local governments from adopting, implementing or enforcing a rule or ordinance that regulates greenhouse gas emissions or limits human activity for the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions if the rule or ordinance is not required by a federal regulation or law or is more stringent than a corresponding federal regulation or law. Read More

HB 157 (Jeter) – Limit Use of Highway Fund Credit Balance. AN ACT to protect the taxpayers of North Carolina from the diversion of fuel tax proceeds for nontransportation uses by requiring that the Unreserved credit Balance in the Highway fund be used for Road related uses. Read More

HB 195 (Jeter) – Cornelius/Extend Use of Design Build. AN ACT extending the authority of the town of Cornelius to use design build delivery methods. Read More

SB 151 (Rabon) – Coastal Policy Reform Act of 2013.  AN ACT to establish an expedited process for the modification of interbasin transfer certificates and for the issuance of interbasin transfer certificates in the Central Coastal Plain Capacity use area and the coastal area counties and TO CLARIFY THE AUTHORITY OF COUNTIES AND MUNICIPALITIES TO have structures removed from the STATE'S public trust ocean beaches. Read More

Other Bills with Recent Action:

HB 120 (Hager, Brawley, Arp) – Building Inspections/Local Consistency. AN ACT to require approval from the North Carolina Building Code Council before a unit of local government may require building inspections in addition to those required by the building Code and to specify the frequency and effective dates of Code updates.
Recent Action:  Given favorable report in House Committee on Regulatory Reform.

SB 111 ( Jackson) - AN ACT to allow the city of Clinton to use the design build method of construction.
Recent Action:  Given favorable report in Senate State and Local Government Committee.

HB 180 (Stevens) – Mechanics Liens/Technical Corrections.  An ACT to make various technical corrections to the laws governing mechanics liens. 
Recent Action:  Given favorable report in House Judiciary Subcommittee C.

Other News:

Fracking Recommendation
A panel studying a controversial property rights issue related to fracking is recommending a policy aimed at protecting landowners near a drilling operation. Under the policy recommendation adopted by the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission's Compulsory Pooling Study Group, gas companies would be required to negotiate for the rights to go on a property, even if the mineral rights beneath the land are in a compulsory pool. Compulsory pooling compels landowners to sell their mineral rights if their neighbors allow a drilling operation on their property. The recommendation is contingent on whether the group had a quorum at the meetings. Only two of the group's four commission members were present. Ray Covington, chairman of the group and a member of the commission, said he will present the recommendation to the commission next week if the state Attorney General's office says the consensus agreement was valid. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves horizontal drilling that could extract gas from land not directly under the area where the process starts. The controversial method uses chemicals, sand and water to fracture rock formations and release natural gas. Scientists believe prehistoric rock formations beneath Lee and nearby counties may contain large deposits of the gas. Fracking opponents say they are worried that fracking might harm people and the environment. Supporters say it can be done safely and will bring a much-needed economic boost to the area. The policy recommended by the study group has to be approved by the commission writing rules for fracking in North Carolina.(Steve DeVane, THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER, 3/01/13).

Airport Control
Charlotte's mayor is pleased that legislators slowed a bill that would shift control of North Carolina's largest airport from the city to a regional authority. The sponsor of the bill to create a new oversight body for Charlotte Douglas International Airport said he delayed floor debate Thursday to get information about the proposed change on bonds the airport has issued. Sen. Bob Rucho of Matthews rescheduled debate for next Wednesday. Mayor Anthony Foxx and the city council have opposed the switch and say the authority idea should be studied. Foxx said Thursday the proposal seems like a solution looking for a problem with one of the country's busiest airports. Rucho has said the airport needs the expertise of an authority as a rail freight project there gets under way.(THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 2/28/13).

NC Ranked No. 1 in Creating Clean Energy Jobs in 4Q
North Carolina led the country in the fourth quarter of 2012 - and ranked second for the entire year - in clean-energy and clean-transportation job announcements, according to Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). Read More

AREVA Moves North American Headquarters to Charlotte Bringing Engineering Jobs
The French energy giant AREVA will move its North American headquarters from Maryland to Charlotte in an expansion expected to bring 130 new energy jobs to the city by 2016. Read More

NC Support for Renewables Remains Strong, Poll Finds
North Carolinians never met a fuel for producing electricity they don’t like, but they like solar best of all, according to a poll commissioned by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. Read More

NC Cracks the Top 10 List in Adding Clean Energy Jobs
North Carolina was among the top 10 states in the production of clean energy jobs in 2012, according to the Washington-based group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). Read More

Triangle’s Largest Engineering Firms
The services engineers provide are a vital part of the Triangle’s business community. Engineers help design and build everything from roads to commercial buildings to houses. They also work to keep the environment safe and develop chemicals that allow the modern world to work. Read More

PENC's "Engineering Grand Challenges" School in Spotlight
The National Academy of Engineering all-star committee knew that civilization had been transformed by engineering achievements in the last century: television, automobiles, airplanes, refrigeration, the electric grid, computers, the Internet. They believed advances in this century could be no less dramatic, but that audacious goals were needed.

The NAE group outlined 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering. All would improve the way we live. Some could save our planet. The NAE Grand Challenges awards should generate as much excitement and publicity as the Oscars. Read More

 


If there are questions or you need additional information, please feel free to contact me at bbailey@penc.org or phone 919-834-1144, ext. 1.


Sincerely,

Betsy Bailey
Professional Engineers of North Carolina


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