Several bills have been introduced in the current legislative session that 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, along with their status at press time.
SB 110 - Terminal groin bill: To allow terminal groins to be constructed in N.C. inlets for the purpose of erosion control. The Senate bill, which passed in March, would allow up to two terminal groins per inlet. The bill was amended by the House to allow only three terminal groins to be built, two with public money and one with private money. The House bill also bars local governments from borrowing money for a project unless the debt has been approved in a referendum. The Senate did not concur with the amended bill, and it is now in a conference committee for resolution.
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 and is currently in Senate Environment committee.
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 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. Passed the Senate on May 10; currently in House committee.
SB 747 – Offshore Wind Jobs and Economic Development:Encourages development of the state’s offshore wind energy resources and encourages wind turbine manufacturing facilities to locate in NC. The bill requires utility companies to sign long-term power purchase agreements for 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2017. Currently in Senate Commerce committee.
HB 116 – Coastal Wetland Riparian Buffer Grandfather: Allows development of single-family residences to encroach on the current Neuse and Tar-Pamlico River Basin 50-foot buffer under certain conditions. Currently in the House environment committee.
HB 415 - Topsail Beach/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. Passed the House and Senate, ratified 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 on May 11.
SB 653/HB 623 – Eliminate Agency Final Decision Authority: These companion bills eliminate agency authority to make final decisions in contested cases; instead, the administrative law judge decision would be final. This would mean that contested cases would no longer come to the CRC for a final agency decision. The House bill has passed committee, but has not been scheduled for a floor vote. The Senate bill is in committee.
HB 901 – Legislative Research Commission toStudy Protection of Masonboro Island: Appropriates $25,000 for each of the next two fiscal years for the LRC 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.”