This week in disappointment: energy efficiency, electric cars and 751 South | North Carolina | Indy Week
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This week in disappointment: energy efficiency, electric cars and 751 South 

We know that the General Assembly is expert at time travel, having sent North Carolina's social and political progress back to the Antebellum era. But reversing course even just three years could cost the state a half-billion dollars (that's billion with a b) annually.

House Bill 201 would revert state energy building codes for commercial construction to 2009 standards—30 percent less energy-efficient than today's minimum benchmarks.

Why should you care? Because if the bill passes, it will cost more taxpayer money to heat and cool new buildings, including schools and other government facilities. And by 2030, the state will lose an estimated $490 million annually in savings that come with keeping the building codes in line with federal law, according to the the U.S. Department of Energy.

N.C. will also lose federal technical assistance, policy guidance, software and analytical support.

On May 31, the DOE sent a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory asking N.C. if it intended to certify that it has updated commercial codes to meet these federal requirements.

The answer? House Bill 201.

Prius owners, revolt! The Senate budget would require North Carolina drivers to pay an extra $100 annually to register their plug-in vehicles and an additional $50 for hybrids. Lawmakers are calling it a fee: Those damn liberal, fuel-conscious Volt owners are sidestepping gas taxes that pay for highway upkeep.

If you follow the Senate Republicans' logic (is it logic or just meanness?), nonsmokers need to pony up to compensate for the tobacco taxes they don't pay.

Enough of the smokescreen: This fee is really a penalty on the environment. One gallon of gas burned emits about 25 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Each year the average non-hybrid, non-electric car sends 7 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Couple this bill with the move to make it illegal for Tesla to sell its electric cars via the Internet in North Carolina, and what should we conclude? The Legislature hates electricity, except when it's generated by coal-fired power plants and used to air-condition energy-inefficient buildings.

Watch as I pull 751 South out of my hat: SB 315 originally dealt with the construction of a new Durham police headquarters. And then, hocus-pocus: In late May, shortly after Durham City Council nixed annexing 751 South and Colvard Farms and extending utility service to the developments, language mysteriously was inserted in the bill to require the city to do just that.

Under the legislation, the city can require the developer to pay for hookups to the utility system. It can also charge the developer twice the rate for water and sewer compared to property owners within the primary corporate limits of the municipality. But that still doesn't offset the environmental impacts of sprawl in the sensitive Jordan Lake watershed. Nor does it address the Legislature's recent proclivity to wrestle local governments into political submission.

The bill is in the House Finance Committee. Its membership includes Rep. Tim Moore, a Republican from Cleveland County and friend of Cal Cunningham, a lawyer for the 751 South developers, Southern Durham Development. Moore was the architect behind a similar bill that failed last year and is the driving force behind the 2013 version.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Absolute power trip."

  • A rundown of what the General Assembly is up to

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