In an effort to move The Efficient and Affordable Energy Rates Bill through the NC General Assembly's legislative process, it's key sponsors are offering a strategic amendment that removes the commercial and industrial ratepayer components of the bill. Those components will be addressed in subsequent legislation.
The inverted rated structure system outlined in H135/S367, if amended in this way, will apply only to residential ratepayers. This is the largest single sector, consuming approximately 43% of electrical energy in North Carolina.
The amendment would also eliminate the proposed "Avoidable Pollution Tax" on the purchase of all non-Energy Star-rated household electrical devices. This tax was originally proposed for the dual purpose of discouraging the use of inefficient appliances and for raising seed money for the Energy Efficiency Bank that would issue low-interest loans to homeowners to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Instead, the amended bill would direct the state to contract with an existing commercial bank or to use an existing funded government agency to administer the low-interest loan program.
By offering this amendment, Representative Patsy Keever and Senator Ellie Kinnaird are under-cutting most of the criticism that materialized against the bill by members of the Republican majority in both legislative houses. The fear being voiced was that inverting utility rates would increase costs, discouraging new industries and businesses from locating in North Carolina, while hurting those already struggling to stay afloat, and ultimately costing jobs. The Avoidable Pollution Tax was opposed simply because the majority party is philosophically opposed to any type of new taxes. With those aspects of the bill removed, the rationale for opposition is no longer apparent.
The irony is, of course, that an inverted rate structure will economically benefit all ratepayers residential, commercial and industrial. Investments in efficiency always pay for themselves, usually rapidly. Rather than losing jobs, this program will create many thousands of jobs and new industries. In addition, the investment in efficiency will result in lower electrical rates for individual businesses and industries who invest in efficiency, renewable and co-generation systems. It will avoid the otherwise certain cost increases that would have materialized to pay for the construction and operation of a new generation of coal and nuclear power plants by Duke and Progress Energy.
This amendment in no way represents a compromise in the standards or goals of the Efficient and Affordable Energy Rates Bill. The mandate remains a 40-60% reduction in energy consumption within 10 years. But, we'll have to get two bills passed, rather than one to include all ratepayers. The Canary Coalition is already working on the language of a commercial and industrial inverted rate program proposal for a future legislative session.
The NC General Assembly is now considering the confirmation of Edward Finley for another term as the Chair of the NC Utilities Commission. It's important that legislators, the news media and the public hear a voice of opposition, even if we don't succeed in stopping this business-as-usual process.
If we want to turn the tide on energy policy in North Carolina and in the United States, then we can't allow the coal, nuclear, natural gas and petroleum industries to continue controlling the regulatory agencies that interpret and implement those policies. In North Carolina, Edward Finley represents the interests that want to perpetuate an energy policy based on using and producing more energy from coal, nuclear and natural gas, purely for the sake of profit and regardless of its impact on public health and the environment.
In the Senate, Finley's confirmation is embodied
Today, Blair Mountain, like dozens of other historic mountains throughout the region, is being threatened by mountaintop removal and it is here that a new generation of Appalachians takes a stand. By working to preserve this mountain we are demanding an end to the destructive practices of MTR that threatens to strip Central Appalachia of its history, its economic potential and its health...
and the meltdown of the grassroots environmental community in North Carolina
Commentary by Avram Friedman, Executive Director of the Canary Coalition
Melting Clocks by Salvador Dali
Frustration abounds in all the offices, meeting rooms, FaceBook pages, blogs and forums of environmental and social change organizations throughout North Carolina as we witness the backward motion of the new majorities in both state legislative Houses and many local government bodies.
The budget is being cut. Essential services are being axed. Teachers and public workers are being fired. Minority voting rights are being challenged. And, in this moment in which we can afford to waste no time in addressing a mounting global environmental crisis, existing environmental regulations are being rolled back as progressive environmental proposals are the subject of disdain and are being ignored by the legislative leadership.
The Japanese Fukushima nuclear multi-meltdown saga progresses from bad to worse, despite a shameful shortage of press coverage, most of which seems to be deliberate understatement. Mountaintop removal coal mining continues in Appalachia. Chemical hydro-fracking for natural gas in underground shale formations is contaminating drinking water. Climate change proceeds as we witness extreme weather patterns becoming more frequent.
Given that our currently elected dinosaurs are reacting to these realities by doing something even worse than the business-as-usual progresslessness to which we've become accustomed in North Carolina, it would be easy to throw up our hands in despair, drown ourselves in beer and drugs, listen to our favorite music and buy into the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012.
But, here's the thing. It's a distorted and self-pitying perspective for North Carolina activists to be commiserating with each other about how powerless we are in the face of a Republican majority in the General Assembly, when, in the past few months on the nightly TV news we have been witnessing one uprising in the streets after another in third world nations that have no democratic traditions, no built-in constitutional mechanisms for public participation, no Bill of Rights, no education to speak of, no monetary resources, no guarantees of security or insulation from personal risk. Whether or not we agree with the goals of any or all of these uprisings the point is somehow these peoples have discovered they are not at all powerless even when confronted with the forces of the complete, ruthless "all-powerful" dictators in their respective nations.
Closer to home, in Madison, Wisconsin, thousands of demonstrators surrounded the Capitol Building for an ongoing demonstration that lasted for weeks in reaction to a Governor and wisdom-free majority in the legislature who decided to take away collective bargaining rights from government employees. Although not widely reported in the press this demonstration spread to other states where similar measures were being enacted by "new majorities." This US domestic uprising is far from over as recall elections are pending against some of the legislators. This could topple the majority in Wisconsin.
People in our country and around the world are rediscovering their power is not defined by the limitations of the business-as-usual government agenda and calendar. Our power is only limited by how much we are willing to commit ourselves.
Systemically, the North Carolina state government has some very undemocratic aspects built into its structure that can easily discourage grassroots activism, particularly on the legislative level. We have a "part-time" legislature that provides a very limited window of opportunity for meaningful legislation to be introduced, debated and acted-upon. If a bill doesn't pass in at least one house by Crossover Day during the Long Session it is considered essentially dead for two years, or until there is a new election and another Long Session. Any bill introduced is competing for attention with hundreds of other pieces of legislation. Under normal circumstances, only those interests who can afford full-time lobbying machines are successful in getting their bills passed in this system. That's one reason Duke Energy and Progress Energy are so influential, for instance. Grassroots initiatives stand little chance-if the game is played by these extremely limiting rules.
Therefore, in the 2011 session key environmental initiatives have not moved out of committee. H135/S367, that would invert utility rates and drive massive investment in energy efficiency, lies stagnant despite the desperate need to reduce energy consumption. S694, that would alter the utility monopoly by allowing small solar energy providers to sell directly to electrical consumers, sits in a draw somewhere on Jones Street. S874, that would remove the state's efficiency program from the death grip of the utility industry and place it in the hands of an independent administrator, lies helplessly at the mercy of a hostile committee chair.
But, taking a queue from the people of Wisconsin, there is no reason to sit back, shrug our shoulders and watch this happen. The polite approach has not worked. It is time to make demands. The legislative process does not belong to the Republicans or to the Democrats. It belongs to the people and exists to provide for the general welfare of the people.
If the business of the people is not adequately addressed when the gavel falls and this session of the General Assembly is closed, then it is our job to clamor for a special session to be called to complete the business of the people.
The desperately crying issues of job creation, environmental protection, energy policy, civil rights, consumer rights, education and health care have not been adequately addressed in this session of the North Carolina General Assembly. It's time to start organizing, networking, building coalitions, surrounding the State Capitol, filling the air with demands for meaningful action by our elected representatives. Come to think of it, North Carolina's state employees have been denied the right of collective bargaining...
The annual membership meeting will be held Thursday, June 30, 6:30-8:30 PM, at the Community Services Building, Room 234, 538 Scotts Creek Road, in Sylva, NC .
Everyone is invited to attend and join in a potluck dinner. The Executive Director, Avram Friedman, will deliver an annual report on the activities of the Canary Coalition. There will be a general discussion about the direction of the organization. The Board election ballots will be counted and winners will be announced.
Ballots are in the process of being sent to all Canary Coalition members to vote in this year's Board of Director Elections. If you do not receive your ballot within the next week it may be because your mailing address has changed and we haven't been notified. Please keep us updated on all your contact information including mailing address, phone number and email address.
year four positions on the Board are up for election.
We’d like to extend our deep appreciation to Jean Larson, Jonathan
Bentley, Melissa Davis, and Dr. Dot Sulock for serving their terms that end
with this election. The Canary Coalition has grown and become a more
influential organization under their leadership.
We are fortunate that Jean Larson and Jonathan Bentley are willing to have their names placed in nomination for another term. They are joined on the ballot this year by Claudine Cremer and Thomas Rain Crowe, two people with records of amazing commitment toward community work. We will be losing Melissa Davis and Dr. Sulock from the Board. Their presence will be missed, but we wish them well as they take on new challenges in their lives.
Board Candidate Profiles
is a nurse who sees clean air and global warming as urgent public health
issues. She works on these issues as a co-chair of the Peace
and Environmental Justice Team of the Unitarian Universalist Church of
Asheville, as an active member of the Madison County Democrats, and
as a Board member of the Canary Coalition since 2005. She
lives in Leicester, Madison County, NC.
role as a cardiovascular recovery nurse has sharpened his awareness of air
quality and its effects on health. As an amateur naturalist, aspiring
writer, and former teacher, he has come to know and love Western North
Carolina and its people. He considers clean air to be critically important,
both for the health of our mountain communities and as part of the larger
struggle towards social justice. Jonathan
has been a Board member since 2007. He lives in Bryson City, Swain County,
Claudine is a long-time
committed community activist. She is co-founder and serving as Vice
President of local businesses, Evergreen Landscaping Services, Inc., and
Carolina Trailbuilders. She is co-owner/operator of Meadow Cove Farm, a
member of the ASAP (Appalachain Sustainable Agriculture Project) network of
local farms producing and marketing seasonal fruits and vegetables grown
using natural, organic methods. She is a member of Save the Mountains
steering committee to help stop nuclear waste dumping in WNC. She helped
organize efforts to oppose an Asheville sewage treatment incinerator as a
co-founder of Citizens for Clean Air. She served as the Recycling Committee
Chair with the Quality Forward organization, worked with fellow citizens to
redirect solid waste management to utilize reduction, reuse, recycling and
composting when Buncombe County was considering siting a new landfill,
worked to oppose unbridled development in the mountains during the recent
local real estate boom and worked with citizens to oppose the construction
of Progress Energy's diesel fired power plant in Woodfin. She
lives in Weaverville, Buncombe County, NC.
Thomas is an author who has
been a regional and community activist, since 1979 and has been involved
with such issues and organizations as The Canary Coalition (Clean Air),
AMUSE (Artists and Musicians United for a Safe Environment), Project to
Protect Native American Sacred Sites in the S. Appalachians, the Western
North Carolina Alliance, UNOT (United Neighbors of Tuckasegee), and has been
on the board of the Southern Biodiversity Project and the
Environmental Leadership Council for WNC. His most recent book of essays and
articles entitled The End of Eden: Writings of an Environmental Activist was
published in 2008 by Wind Publications. His work will appear in a series
chapbook focusing on the Great Smoky Mountains to be published by Voices
From the American Landscape in the summer of 2011. He is a founding member
of the Southern Nature Writers Group based in Athens, Georgia (www.southernnature.org).
He lives in the Tuckasegee community in Jackson County, NC.
Hope to see you on the 30th!
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