AN ACT TO MAKE VARIOUS CHANGES TO THE INTERBASIN TRANSFER STATUTES.
Amends GS 143-215.22L, which regulates surface water transfers, as follows. Prohibits public water systems within the same receiving river basin that are part of an interlocal agreement or other regional water supply arrangement from adding together the individual transfer amounts for each system when determining whether a certificate is required under the statute for the transfer, or an increase in the transferred amount, of water from one river basin to another. Amends the requirements related to providing notice of public meeting and opportunity to comment on the scope of the environmental documents when an applicant files a notice of intent to file a petition for a proposed transfer to require the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to create, maintain, and annually update a list of newspapers of general circulation for each county; requires designating at lease one newspaper for each county and making the list available online. Deems publication of notice in the designated newspaper for the county as compliant with the notice requirement with respect to: (1) an applicant's publication of the notice of intent to file a petition, for each county in which notice must be published; (2) the Commission's publication of notice of the public hearing on the draft environmental document, notice of its draft determination on the applicant's environmental document, or notice of public hearing on the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission's (EMC) draft determination, for the county or counties in which these notices must be published; and (3) any requirement that publication also be made in a newspaper of general circulation in any city within that county. Requires the notice of the public hearing on the draft environmental document for a proposed interbasin transfer to indicate that the administrative review of the environmental document will be limited to issues raised in the written comments that are submitted. Provides that a decision on the completeness and adequacy of the environmental document is only subject to review in a contested case on the decision of the EMC to issue or deny a certificate under this statute when the petition for a contested case is filed by a person who previously submitted written comments objecting to the completeness or adequacy of the environmental document and setting out the reason, and any administrative hearing on the contested case must consider only the objections set out in the petitioner's previously submitted written comments.
Requires that the request to appoint a mediation officer be made during the comment period on the draft environmental document and before the determination of its adequacy and requires an interested party who is among those allowed to make the request to have timely submitted written comments on the petition. Requires that the notice of a public hearing on a draft determination include a statement that administrative review of the completeness, adequacy of notice, and alternative analysis of the draft determination will be limited to issues raised in submitted written comments.
Adds the following to the issues that the EMC must consider when determining whether to issue a certificate for the transfer: (1) whether the applicant's petition for a certificate is complete and in accordance with the statute's requirements of this section and (2) whether the applicant materially and substantially complied with all requirements for notice to be given by the applicant. Makes the determination of these two factors subject to review in a contested case challenging the decision to issue or deny a certificate initiated by a person who previously submitted written comments pursuant to the subsection objecting to the EMC's draft findings and these newly required conclusions of law and setting out the basis for each objection, and any administrative hearing on the contested case shall consider only the objections set out in the petitioner's previously submitted written comments. Amends the issues that must be established by a preponderance of the evidence before the EMC will grant a certificate for a water transfer, by adding that the finding that there are no reasonable alternatives to the proposed transfer is reviewable in the same manner and subject to the same requirements as those added for the review of the specified issues when determining whether to issue a certificate for the transfer. Makes administrative review of a final decision on a petition for a certificate governed by GS Chapter 150B.
Adds that when the Secretary of Environmental Quality finds: (1) that an acute emergency event such as a major equipment failure or system damage caused by a natural disaster has caused a water supply problem and (2) that there is not adequate time to comply with the provisions of the statute governing emergency transfers, a temporary transfer may be approved not to exceed 25% of any transfer limits of an existing certificate, or, if there is no certificate, not to exceed 25% of any transfer limits under the statute. Limits the duration of the transfer to two weeks, with a two-week extension allowed upon written request and for good cause shown, but prohibits the temporary transfer from being allowed for more than 60 days in total. Sets out required actions by the Secretary for the approval of the temporary transfer. Allows specifying conditions required to protect other water users. Specifies that a drought is not considered an acute emergency event.
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