AN ACT TO (1) PRESERVE THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS BY PROHIBITING UNITS LOCATED IN NORTH CAROLINA FROM PURCHASING OR USING COAL THAT IS EXTRACTED USING MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL COAL MINING; AND (2) PROVIDE ECONOMIC RELIEF TO ELECTRIC UTILITY RATEPAYERS DURING THIS PERIOD OF ECONOMIC RECOVERY BY PLACING A MORATORIUM ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF ANY NEW COAL-FIRED POWER PLANT UNLESS IT IS CARBON NEUTRAL.
Enacts a new Article 5B in GS Chapter 62 to be known as the Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act. Includes findings and purpose regarding the negative impact of mountaintop removal coal mining on the Appalachian Mountains.
Prohibits electric public utilities that operate coal-fired generating units in North Carolina from purchasing or using coal that is extracted by mountaintop removal coal mining. Authorizes the NC Utilities Commission (Commission) to adopt rules to implement proposed new Article 5B. Defines coal-fired generating unit as defined in GS 62-133.6 and mountaintop removal coal mining to mean any method of surface coal mining that removes a mountaintop or ridgeline, whether or not the mined area will be returned to its approximate original contour.
Requires each electric public utility that operates a coal-fired generating unit located in the state to secure the sworn statement of an authorized officer from the coal provider attesting that the coal the utility agrees to purchase or use was not, nor will be, extracted using mountaintop removal coal mining. Specifies information that must be included in the sworn statement. Directs each public utility to provide the Commission, on the fifteenth of each month, a report itemizing its costs for purchasing or using coal extracted by a method other than mountaintop removal coal mining. Requires that as a part of its annual report, each electric public utility operating a coal-fired generator in North Carolina submit to the Commission copies of each required sworn statement and each purchase contract. Provides additional guidelines regarding information regarding rate determinations, determining compliance, and confidentiality of information.
Provides for penalties for any electric public utility company that is in violation of the prohibition against contracting to purchase or use coal extracted by mountaintop removal coal mining or in violation of the monthly or annual reporting requirements. Enacts new GS 62-133.10 in Article 7 of GS Chapter 62 to provide for cost recovery through an annual rider for the incremental cost of purchasing or using coal extracted by a method other than mountaintop removal coal mining.
The above provisions are effective January 1, 2016, and apply to contracts to purchase coal entered into on or after that date.
Creates The Electric Utility Ratepayers Relief Act (Relief Act). Enumerates findings by the General Assembly to support its finding that for a certificate issued before the current recession, construction of a new coal-fired generating unit is no longer in the public interest. Provides that the purpose of the Relief Act is to promote economic relief to public utility rate payers by temporarily prohibiting the issuance of any new certificate authorizing the construction of a coal-fired generating unit by the North Carolina Utilities Commission and requiring the suspension of any certificate issued before July 1, 2013, for any generating unit not in operation by July 1, 2013, unless the new or pre-July 1, 2013, certificate is for a coal-fired generating unit that is carbon neutral. Provides definitions as follows: (1) carbon neutral means emitting no carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and includes employing a technique to absorb carbon dioxide so that it is not emitted into the atmosphere, (2) certificate as defined in GS 62-3, (3) coal-fired generating unit as defined in GS 62-133.6, and (4) public utility as defined in GS 62-3.
Declares a moratorium on the issuance of a certificate to operate a coal-fired generating unit pursuant to any application filed with the NC Utilities Commission (Commission) on or after July 1, 2015, unless the unit is carbon neutral. Temporarily suspends any certificate issued prior to July 1, 2015, for construction of any coal-fired generating unit that has not begun operations as of July 1, 2015, unless the coal-fired unit is carbon neutral. Provides that the suspension is to be in place until July 1, 2020. Does not prohibit cost recovery for an electric public utility. Provides for penalties for construction of a coal-fired generating unit in violation of this act.
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