Several bills introduced during the most recent legislative session directly or indirectly affect the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission and the N.C. Division of Coastal Management. Following are descriptions of the bills of particular note.
SB 110 – Permit Terminal Groins: To allow four terminal groins to be constructed in N.C. inlets for the purpose of erosion control.
HB 819 - CAMA Setback Requirements: Would allow repair or replacement of single-family and duplex structures that do not currently meet the CRC’s large structure oceanfront setback. These types of structures that are larger than 5,000 square feet, and that were constructed before Aug. 11, 2009, would have to meet a minimum setback of 60 feet or 30 times the erosion rate, whichever is greater, for replacement. This bill has passed the House, but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. It could be considered during the short session next year.
SB 22 – APA Rules: Increasing Costs Prohibition: Prohibits agencies from adopting rules that result in a financial impact on all persons subject to the rule of at least $500,000 in a 12-month period. Signed by Gov. Perdue.
SB 781 – Regulatory Reform Act:Prohibits agencies from adopting environmental regulations that are stricter than federal regulations. Exempts projects requiring a CAMA major permit from State Environmental Policy Act review. Eliminates agency authority to make a final decisions in contested cases; instead, the administrative law judge decision would be final. This means that contested cases would no longer come to the CRC for a final agency decision. Vetoed by Gov. Perdue; overridden by both the House and the Senate in July.
SB 709 – Energy Jobs Act: Directs Gov. Perdue to create a compact with the governors of Virginia and South Carolina to work toward expanding the search for offshore oil and natural gas, and to lobby for a state share of any revenues. Directs DENR to prepare a legislative report that outlines the commercial potential of onshore shale gas resources within the state as well as the regulatory framework necessary to develop this resource. As part of this report, the Department shall review all existing state laws and regulations regarding natural gas and related onshore hydrocarbon production specific to shale gas. The bill also renames the current Energy Policy Council to the Energy Jobs Council, and makes some changes to the membership of that council.
A committee substitute passed the Senate Commerce committee, which made several changes to the original bill. That substitute bill changed the distribution formula to give DENR a larger share of offshore royalties, reducing the royalties for community colleges. The money could go toward things such as inlet management projects, channel navigation or water quality management. The committee also added three members to the Energy Jobs Council, with expertise in wind energy, biofuels and environmental management. A later Senate amendment restored some of the royalties to community colleges.
This bill was vetoed by Gov. Perdue, and the veto was overridden by the Senate. The House had not yet voted on the veto override at press time.
HB 415 - Topsail Beach-Nags Head Littoral Rights:States that the owners of Topsail Beach and Nags Head property that abuts lands raised by beach nourishment projects shall keep the littoral rights they possessed prior to the beach nourishment project, including direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. Signed into law by Gov. Perdue.
SB 428 – Study Consolidated Environmental Commission: Directs the Environmental Review Commission to study the feasibility of consolidating the state’s environmental commissions into one full-time commission. Passed the Senate, but did not come up for vote in the House during this session.
HB 901 – Legislative Research Commission toStudy Protection of Masonboro Island: Directs the Legislative Research Commission to study the protection of the Masonboro Island component of the N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve “in order to assure that the ecological systems of the island are maintained and preserved and to assure that the public retains access to the island.” This bill was rolled into a larger studies bill (H773), which passed the Senate. The studies bill may be considered during the short session next year.