Fight brewing over Rutherfordton Republican’s energy legislation

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Other lawmakers from WNC take legislative spotlight

Rep. Mike Hager, a Republican from Rutherfordton

Rep. Mike Hager, a Republican from Rutherfordton

A hearing has yet to be scheduled, but the debate has already started over statewide energy policy legislation introduced last week by Rep. Mike Hager (R-Rutherfordton).

Hager’s Affordable and Reliable Energy Act would rollback legislation passed in 2007 requiring electricity producers to include renewable sources in their energy production portfolio.

Hager, a former Duke Energy engineer, has said he is opposed to government subsidies for renewable energy sources.

Environmental groups indicated they’ll fight the change. Last week, Greenpeace accused Hager of helping reward his former employer and said the new legislation resembles model bills put out by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is funded in part by oil and gas industry interests.

The bill freezes the state’s renewable requirements at 3 percent. The law would have required 12.5 percent of electricity production to come from renewable sources by 2025.

The bill’s future is not entirely certain, though. Hager may chair the House Public Utility and Energy Committee, but the bill has to pass through three other committees before it gets to there.

Rep. Michele Presnell, a Republican from Burnsville

Rep. Michele Presnell, a Republican from Burnsville

In other action last week, first year Rep. Michele Presnell (R-Burnsville) presented her first bill at a meeting of the aforementioned House Public Utilities and Energy Committee, arguing last Wednesday on behalf of legislation she introduced along with Hager and Rep. Tim Moffitt (R-Asheville) that reduces a reporting requirement for electric membership cooperatives. The cooperatives representatives called the reporting requirement redundant and not needed. The bill passed by a voice vote and moves to the House Regulatory Reform Committee.

Also last week, the Senate gave final approval to a bill sponsored in the House by Hager and in the Senate by Sen. Ralph Hise, a Republican from Spruce Pine, to repeal prohibitions on steel traps in Polk and Rutherford counties.

This week House and Senate appropriations committees continue joint meetings in preparation for the biennial budget. Both chambers are awaiting Gov. Pat McCrory’s spending proposals, which could come this week according to a timeline laid out by the governor earlier this month.

Bill introductions

Rep. Joe Sam Queen (D-Waynesville) has introduced local legislation making the nearly 800-home Lake Junaluska area part of the town of Waynesville. The 1,200 acre area, founded in 1908 as a Methodist retreat and spiritual center would join the town on August 31 under the legislation.

Queen also filed legislation last week that would authorize Haywood County to charge a 2 percent lodging tax to fund the county’s tourism development authority.

Both bills were introduced in the Senate as well by Sen. Jim Davis (R-Franklin).

The state would adopt rules for licensing and regulating music theorists under a bill proposed by by Rep. Susan Fisher (D-Asheville). Fisher’s bill is aimed at encouraging graduates of the state’s music therapy program at Appalachian State University and Eastern Carolina University to practice in the state and protect the licensed practitioners in the state from those who provide “unprofessional, invasive, and poor quality treatment.”

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About the Author

Kirk Ross

Based in the Triangle, Kirk Ross is the capital bureau chief for Carolina Public Press. Contact him at kross@carolinapublicpress.org.

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