Bill Summaries: H385 VARIOUS ENERGY/ENV. CHANGES. (NEW)

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  • Summary date: Jun 6 2024 - View Summary

    Senate committee substitute to the 1st edition replaces the prior version in its entirety with the following. 

    Part I

    Section 1

    Adds new GS 143B-279.20, requiring the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to make quarterly reports to the specified NCGA commission on any applications received for permits required for siting or operation of natural gas pipelines and gas-fired electric generation facilities within the State, and DEQ’s activities to process those applications, including information of processing times. Directs that the first report is due not later than October 1, 2024. Specifies that new GS 143B-279.20 applies to permit applications pending or received on or after the date the act becomes law. 

    Part II

    Section 2

    Amends GS 14-159.1 (now titled criminal offense of contaminating or injuring a public water system and injuring a public wastewater treatment facility) as follows. Changes the intent requirement for contaminating a public water system from willfully and wantonly to knowingly and willfully commit any of the listed acts. Sets forth the separate offense of injuring a public water system, which makes it a Class C felony to knowingly and willfully stop, obstruct, impair, weaken, destroy, injure, or otherwise damage, or attempt to stop, obstruct, impair, weaken, destroy, injure, or otherwise damage, the property or equipment of a public water system, with the intent to impair the services of the public water system. (Currently, the only illegal acts pertaining to injuring a public water system are if the person willfully and wantonly damages or tampers with the property or equipment of a public water system with the intent to impair the system’s services.) Makes it a Class C felony to knowingly and willfully stop, obstruct, impair, weaken, destroy, injure, or otherwise damage, or attempt to stop, obstruct, impair, weaken, destroy, injure, or otherwise damage, the property or equipment of a wastewater treatment system (defined) that is owned or operated by a (1) public utility or (2) local government unit. Makes organizational and technical changes. Imposes a mandatory $250,000 fine for persons who commit any of the offenses listed in GS 14-159.1. Prevents the offense from merging with other offenses.

    Amends GS 62-323 (willful injury to public utility property) to increase the offense from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class C felony. Prevents merger of offenses. Specifies that the section only applies to conduct resulting in injury to a public utility or property thereof, that’s not otherwise covered by GS 14-159.1 (discussed above), GS 14-150.2 (injuring an energy facility), and GS 14-154 (injuring wires and other fixtures of telephone, broadband, broadcast, or cable telecommunications companies).

    Adds new GS 14-150.3 (injuring a manufacturing facility) making it a Class C felony for a person to knowingly and willfully stop, obstruct, impair, weaken, destroy, injure, or otherwise damage, or attempt to stop, obstruct, impair, weaken, destroy, injure, or otherwise damage, the property or equipment of a manufacturing facility (defined as a facility used for the lawful production or manufacture of goods).  Imposes a mandatory $250,000 fine for persons who commit the offense. Prevents the offense from merging with other offenses.

    Creates a civil action for persons whose property or person is injured by reason of a violation of GS 14-159.1, GS 62-323, or GS 14-150.3 with treble actual and consequential damages. Provides for direct, accessory, solicitation, conspiracy and material support liability. Directs that establishment of the statutory violation constitutes willful and wanton conduct for purposes of punitive damages and that the cap on punitive damages does not apply.  Directs that the civil action is in addition to any other rights and remedies provided by law.

    Directs that: (1) GS 14-159.1 (offenses for public water and wastewater facilities) does not apply to work or activity that is performed at or on a wastewater treatment facility by the owner or operator of the facility, or an agent of the owner or operator authorized to perform such work or activity by the owner or operator; (2) GS 62-323 (felony willful injury to public utility property) does not apply to work or activity performed at or on a public activity by the utility’s owner or operator or an agent thereof authorized to perform such work; and (3)  GS 14-150.3 (injury to a manufacturing facility) does not apply to work or activity performed at or on a wastewater treatment facility/public utility/manufacturing facility by the utility's/facility’s owner or operator or an agent thereof authorized to perform such work. Also specifies that GS 62-323 does not apply to lawful activity authorized or required under State or federal law.

    Repeals GS 143-152 (making it a misdemeanor to cause injury to intentionally or maliciously damage or obstruct any waterline of any public institution, or in any way contaminate or render the water impure or injurious).

    Amends GS 1D-27 by specifying that the cap on punitive damages in GS 1D-25(b) does not apply to violations of GS 14-159.1, GS 62-323, or GS 14-150.3.

    Effective December 1, 2024, and applies to offenses committed on or after that date. Specifies that prosecutions for offenses committed before December 1, 2024 are not abated or affected by the act, and the statutes that would be applicable but for the act remain applicable.   

    Part III

    Section 3

    Enacts new Article 3 to GS Chapter 64, which is titled The NC High Purity Quartz Protection Act.  Contains findings. Specifies that it is in the public interest for the State to guard its deposits of high purity quartz from the potential of adversarial foreign government control to protect its vital mineral and economic resources. Contains five definitions, including adversarial foreign government (a state-controlled enterprise or the  government of a foreign nation that has received a designation under 15 C.F.R. § 7.4 from a determination by the United States Secretary of Commerce that the entity has engaged in a long-term pattern or serious instances of conduct significantly adverse to the national security of the United States or security and safety of United States persons). Prevents an adversarial foreign government from purchasing, acquiring, leasing or holding any interest in (1) a quartz mining operation or (2) land containing commercially valuable amounts of high purity quartz under new GS 64-53. Directs that any transfers of an interest in land or mining operation in violation of the above is void.  Designates the State and the US Secretary of Commerce as solely responsible for determining whether an individual or entity is subject to new Article 3. Directs that an individual or other entity that is not an adversarial foreign government does not bear any civil or criminal liability for failing to determine or make inquiry of whether an individual or other entity is an adversarial foreign government. Applies to interests in land acquired on or after the act becomes law.

    Part IV

    Section 4

    Expands the type of projects subject to the requirements for certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act included in GS 143-214.1A to include also projects located at an existing or former electric generation facility. 

    Part V

    Section 5

    Requires the Replacement of Existing Structures Rule (15A NCAC 07J .0210) to be implemented as follows. For fixed docks, floating docks, fixed piers, floating piers, or walkways damaged or destroyed by natural elements, fire, or normal deterioration, activity to rebuild the dock, pier, or walkway to its pre-damage condition will be considered repair of the structure, and will not require Coastal Management (CAMA) permits, without regard to the percentage of framing and structural components required to be rebuilt. At the time a dock, pier, or walkway damaged or destroyed by natural elements, fire, or normal deterioration is repaired, the width and length of the dock, pier, or walkway structure may be enlarged by not more five feet, and the structure may be heightened, without need for a CAMA permit, but the owner is required to comply with all other State and federal laws. Directs the Coastal Resources Commission to amend its rules so that it is consistent with this provision. Exempts those rule amendments from review by the Rules Review Commission under the APA. Sunsets this provision when the permanent rules become effective.

    Makes the above provisions effective on the later of the following dates and applicable to applications for permits pending on or filed on or after that date: (1) October 1, 2024, or (2) the first day of the month that is 60 days after the DEQ Secretary certifies to the Revisor of Statutes that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has approved the changes made to the CAMA rules.

    Requires DEQ, by July 1, 2024, to prepare and submit to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for approval, the above proposed changes to the CAMA rules. Requires DEQ to report to the specified NCGA committee on the status of their activities under this section quarterly, beginning September 1, 2024, until the NCGA repeals this reporting requirement. 

    Part VI

    Section 6

    Removes GS 106-803(a3)’s (concerning siting requirements for swine houses and other facilities) bar from a liquid animal waste management system constructing those facilities on land located within a 100-year floodplain for those facilities needing a permit under by Article 21 of GS Chapter 143's Part 1 (water and air resources permits). Removes notice requirement under GS 106-805 (pertaining to written notice of swine farms) for swine farms that are governed by Article 21 of GS Chapter 143's Part 1 (water and air resources permits).

    Part VII

    Section 7

    Amends the criteria for designation of a cleanfields renewable energy demonstration park under GS 62-133.20 as follows. Specifies that the body of water that the real property must be contiguous to includes estuaries, rivers, streams, wetlands, and swamps. Expands the manufacturing site eligibility to include facilities that currently include more than 400,000 square feet of building enclosures. Extends eligibility to owners that have applied for a brownfields agreement with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) (was, only owners who have entered into such agreements and provided satisfactory financial assurance for the agreement eligible). Includes animal waste as one of the sources that must be included for generating energy. Requires the Utilities Commission (UC) to assign triple credit to natural gas certificates that are generated by new renewable energy facilities. Specifies that the additional credits are now eligible to be used to meet the requirements of either GS 62-133.8(f), if the underlying electric power, natural gas, or renewable energy certificates were produced from any form of biomass other than swine waste resources, or GS 62-133.8(e) if produced from swine waste resources (was, just GS 62-133.8(f)). Makes conforming changes.

    Part VIII

    Section 8

    Adds new GS 62-133.8A, creating renewable energy certificates for natural gas generated from renewable energy resources. Directs the UC to consider each 5,500 cubic feet of natural gas generated from renewable energy resources when injected into a natural gas pipeline to be equivalent to one megawatt hour of electric generation when assigning renewable energy certificates.

    Part IX

    Section 9

    Amends GS 62-133.4 (concerning gas cost adjustments for natural gas local distribution companies), as follows. Prevents utilities from recovering from ratepayers, in any rate recovery proceeding or rider, the incremental cost of natural gas attributable to renewable energy biomass resources that exceeds the average system cost of gas unattributable to renewable energy biomass resources calculated and filed with the UC. Directs each natural gas local distribution company that incurs costs attributable to renewable energy biomass resources to submit the utility's actual cost thereof to the UC monthly for purposes of determining the total amount of natural gas costs recoverable under GS 62-133.4. Defines domestic wastewater, natural gas or gas, and renewable energy biomass resources. Amends the definition of cost to also include those related to the production of natural gas.

    Expands the things that are recoverable under GS 62-133.7A (concerning rate adjustment mechanisms for natural gas local distribution company rates) to allow the UC to enable a natural gas local distribution company to recover the prudently incurred capital investment and associated costs for producing and transporting natural gas as defined in GS 62-133.4 or consistent with the intent and purpose of GS 62-133.4. Makes organizational changes. Makes conforming changes, including to the statute's title.

    Applies to rate case proceedings filed on or after the date the act becomes law.

    Part X

    Section 10

    Amends GS 113A-103 by excluding from the definition of development, as that term is used in the Coastal Area Management Act, floating structures used for aquaculture; also excludes uses related to aquaculture and aquaculture facilities from development. Effective on the later of the following dates and applicable to applications for permits pending on or filed on or after that date: (1) October 1, 2024, or (2) the first day of the month that is 60 days after the DEQ Secretary certifies to the Revisor of Statutes that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has approved the changes.

    Amends GS 143B-289.52 by prohibiting the Marine Fisheries Commission from adopting rules regulating cases, poles, anchoring systems, or any above-water frames or structural supports used to suspend or hold in place equipment or floating structures used for aquaculture.

    Requires DEQ, by July 1, 2024, to prepare and submit to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for approval, the above proposed changes. Requires DEQ to report to the specified NCGA committee on the status of their activities under this section quarterly, beginning September 1, 2024, until the NCGA repeals this reporting requirement. 

    Part XI

    Section 11

    Amends GS 113A-103 by amending the definition of development, as that term is used in the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA), so that it now includes activity in a duly designated area of environmental concern involving, requiring, or consisting of land disturbing resulting from the construction or enlargement of a structure, including the clearing or alteration of land as an adjunct of construction (was, involving, requiring, or consisting of the construction or enlargement of a structure, with clearing or alteration of land as an adjunct of construction listed separately). Add and defines the term land disturbing activity as any use of the land by a person that rules in a change in the natural cover or topography of lands or submerged lands. Makes organizational changes.

    Amends GS 113A-113 by amending one of the categories of areas that may be designate as an area of environmental concern, so that the eight listed types of areas may be designated to the extend they contain environmental or natural resources of more than local significance, or where uncontrolled development could result in major and irreversible damage to important historic, cultural, scientific or scenic values or natural systems (was, fragile or historic areas, and other areas containing environmental or natural resources of more than local significance, where uncontrolled or incompatible development could result in major or irreversible damage to important historic, cultural, scientific or scenic or natural systems). Amends the eight listed types of areas that may be included in this category, to now be historic places listed, or that have been determined to be eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and properties or areas that are or may be designated as registered natural landmarks or national historic landmark (was, historic places that are listed, or have been approved for listing by the North Carolina Historical Commission, in the National Register of Historic Places pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966; historical, archaeological, and other places and properties owned, managed or assisted by the State of North Carolina under GS Chapter 121; and properties or areas that are or may be designated by the Secretary of the Interior as registered natural landmarks or as national historic landmarks). Prohibits designation of these types of areas as an area of environmental concern based only on an agency identification of a proposed location from remaining effective for longer than three years unless, the proposed site has been at least 75% acquired. Makes additional clarifying and technical changes.

    Amends GS 113A-118 by specifying that a development permit required under Part 4 (Permit Letting and Enforcement) applies only to development activities within the area of environmental concern.

    Amends GS 113A-118.2 to make the Division of Coastal Management of DEQ (was, DEQ) responsible for the review required for all development within the Primary Nursery Areas or Outstanding Resource Waters area of environmental concern.

    Amends GS 113A-120 to require the findings that must be made when denying a development permit application, to be written findings supported in detail, including the basis for concluding that the conditions are insufficient to avoid the finding. Amends the 10 listed findings as follows: (1) amends the findings previously related to fragile or historic areas to conform with changes discussed above to GS 113A-113 and adds that incidental disturbance of archaeological resources during development is not considered major and irreversible damage; and allows the responsible official or body to provide the results of any investigation of proposed developments in areas of environmental concern in order to obtain sufficient evidence to enable a balanced judgment to be rendered concerning the issuance of permits to build such developments, to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR), which then may take actions with respect to resources identified in the investigation; and (2) includes the finding that the proposed development would unreasonably contribute to cumulative impacts on waters subject to the Article (was, would contribute to cumulative effects that would be inconsistent with the guidelines in the statute). Makes conforming changes. Allows a permit to impose conditions on development activities, or on the operation of maintenance of the completed project, or both, that are reasonably necessary to prevent a finding with respect to the 10 applicable factors listed (was, may be condition upon the applicant’s amending his proposal to take whatever measures or agreeing to carry out whatever terms of operation or use of the development that are reasonably necessary to protect the public interest with respect to the 10 factors). Adds that the applicant may amend its proposal to incorporate conditions, and DEQ may conduct additional investigation before issuing the permit to determine what conditions are reasonably necessary, but the conditions must be specific, unambiguous, and minimize restrictions on the applicant’s development activities to the greatest extent feasible. Require the determination to grant, deny or condition a permit under the statue on the responsible body or official’s own review and prohibits incorporating conditions based on recommendations from other agencies unless expressly authorized to do so by law.

    Amends GS 113A-124 to require investigations of proposed developments in areas of environmental concern in order to obtain sufficient evidence to enable a balanced judgment to be rendered concerning the issuance of permits to build such developments, to be done at DEQ’s sole cost and expense. Requires applications to be given notice of investigation within 30 days of receipt of a permit application and requires that the investigation be completed within 60 days of the notice.

    Require DEQ, by July 1, 2024, to prepare and submit to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for approval, the above proposed changes. Requires DEQ to report to the specified NCGA committee on the status of their activities under this section quarterly, beginning September 1, 2024, until the NCGA repeals this reporting requirement.

    Effective on the later of the following dates and applicable to applications for permits pending on or filed on or after that date: (1) October 1, 2024, or (2) the first day of the month that is 60 days after the DEQ Secretary certifies to the Revisor of Statutes that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has approved the changes.

    Part XII

    Section 12

    Amends GS 159G-36 by no longer prohibiting grants under the Viable Utility Reserve to a single local government for emergency grants for operating deficits from being awarded for more than three consecutive fiscal years.

    Part XIII

    Section 13

    Amends GS 130A-328 (concerning fees and permitting for public water systems) as follows. Lists six requirements that govern permits submitted to DEQ for approval under GS 130A-328, including: (1) that DEQ must complete a review of the plan set submitted with an application within 30 days of receiving the completed plan set; (2) an administrative review of each plan set by DEQ within 10 days of receiving the application, with required notice to the applicant on the completeness of the plan set; (3) procedures for DEQ’s review of any additional requested information; (4) mandatory reimbursement to the applicant of 10% of its application fee for every working day that DEQ goes beyond the technical review period before issuing a construction authorization or a denial of the application, to be taken from DEQ’s administrative overhead. Defines plan set and technical review period. Effective December 1, 2024, and applies to applications submitted on or after that date.

    Requires DEQ to prepare a guidance document identifying all required information that constitutes a completed plan set and to post that document on its website by no later than September 1, 2024.

    Part XIV

    Section 14

    Adds new GS 162A-900 (concerning limitations on allocating service for residential development) preventing a local government unit from (1) requiring an applicant for water or sewer service for residential development to agree to any condition or (2) accept any offer by the applicant to consent to any condition, not otherwise authorized by law, including, without limitation, any of the following: (i) payment of taxes, impact fees or other fees, or contributions to any fund; (ii) adherence to any restrictions related to land development or land use, including those within the scope of GS 160D-702(zoning regulations); or (iii) adherence to any restrictions related to building design elements within the scope of GS 160D-702. Prevents a local government unit from implementing a scoring or preference system to allocate water or sewer service among applicants for water or sewer service for residential development. Defines residential development as new development of single-family or multi-family housing.

    Part XV

    Section 15

    Enacts new GS 130A-330 (Local authority to prevent backflow preventers), as follows. Specifies that a local government public water system cannot require a customer to install a backflow preventer on an existing nonresidential or residential connection, including multifamily dwellings not otherwise required by law except where the degree of hazard from the customer's connection is determined to be high by DEQ. Specifies that the limitations above cannot be construed to prohibit requirements of installations of backflow preventers under the NC Plumbing and Fire Codes if one of the listed triggering events occurs.

    Provides for immunity to a public water system owned or operated by a local government unit, and its employees, including the Cross Connection Control Operator in Responsible Charge from civil liability in tort from any loss, damage, or injury arising out of or relating to the backflow of water into potable water supply systems where a backflow preventer is not required by State or federal law, or where the degree of hazard from the customer's connection is not determined to be high by DEQ. Requires DEQ to determine whether the degree of hazard is high when it is not required by State or federal law and to post notice of such determinations on its website. Allows public water systems owned or operated by a local government to require the installation of a backflow preventer if the system pays all costs, including the device, installation, and appropriate landscaping. Prevents a public water system owned or operated by a local government unit from requiring periodic testing more frequently than once every three years for backflow preventers on residential irrigation systems that do not apply or dispose chemical feeds. Provides for immunity for a public water system owned or operated by a local government, and its employees, including the Cross Connection Control Operator in Responsible Charge for the limitations on periodic testing. Allows a public water system owned or operated by a local government unit to accept the results of backflow preventer testing conducted by a plumbing contractor or a certified backflow prevention assembly tester approved by the public water system. Defines high hazardbackflow preventer, and certified backflow prevention assembly tester. Includes DEQ’s determinations of high hazards as one of the defined rules in the APA in GS 150B-2. Applies to requirements for installation or testing of backflow preventers made by a public water supply on or after the act becomes law.

    Part XVI

    Section 16

    Amends GS 130A-291.1 (concerning septage management programs and permitting) to exempt food service establishments not involved in pumping or vacuuming a grease appurtenance from needing a permit under the statute.  

    Part XVII

    Contains severability clause.

    Makes conforming changes to the act’s titles.


  • Summary date: Mar 15 2023 - View Summary

    Enacts new GS 153A-134.1 (pertaining to regulation of battery-charged security fences--counties) and GS 160A-194.1(pertaining to regulation of battery-charged fences-cities). Defines a battery-charged security fence to mean an alarm system and ancillary components, or equipment attached to that system, including a fence, a battery-operated energizer intended to periodically deliver voltage impulses to the fence, and a battery charging device used exclusively to charge the battery. Establishes the following seven requirements that all battery-charged security fences are required to meet: (1) interfaces with a monitored alarm device enabling the alarm system to transmit a signal intended to summon the business or law enforcement in response to an intrusion or burglary; (2) is located on property that is not designated by a county or city exclusively for residential use; (3) has an energizer powered by a commercial storage battery that is not more than 12 volts of direct current; (4) has an energizer that meets the standards established by the most current  version of the International Electrotechnical Commission Standard 60335-2-76; (5) is surrounded by a non-electric perimeter fence or wall that is not less than 5 feet in height; (6) does not exceed 10 feet in height or 2 feet higher than the non-electric perimeter fence or wall, whichever is higher; (7) is marked with conspicuous warning signs that are located on the battery-charged security fence at not more than 30-foot intervals and read: "WARNING—ELECTRIC FENCE".

    Bars counties and cities from (1) adopting ordinances, rules, or regulations that require a permit, fee, review, or approval for the use or installation of a battery-charged security fence beyond any permit that may be required by an ordinance adopted by the county’s governing board under GS 74D-11; (2) imposing installation or operating requirements inconsistent with the described standards; (3) prohibiting the installation or use of battery-operated security fences on property zoned for nonresidential purposes.