By the Editorial Board
On a major bill that will shape North Carolina’s energy future, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislative leaders have reached what’s being called a compromise.
But if that’s what House Bill 951 is, it’s an odd one. Somehow this compromise is opposed by both economic justice advocates and big businesses. Defenders of low-income utility customers say it will increase the number of people who can’t afford the cost of energy. Representatives of large industrial companies say it will add millions of dollars to their overhead and might discourage new companies from coming to North Carolina.
Cooper likes that the bill includes his goals of reducing carbon emissions from power plants by 70% by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Duke Energy, the state’s monopoly utility, likes that the bill allows rates to be set for multiple years instead of requiring an annual review, and that it gives the utility leeway to build more power plants that burn natural gas.
The appeal of the compromise is clear. The bill polishes Cooper’s credentials on tackling climate change and it will add to Duke Energy’s bottom line.
But what this bill actually compromises is an effort that we can’t afford to compromise – the push to save the planet from runaway climate change. The goals of Cooper’s Clean Energy Plan are included, but the bill lacks the teeth to enforce those goals. And Duke Energy, a lagging giant on convergence to renewable energy, is spared the serious prodding needed to push it away from burning more natural gas. Fracking for natural gas, transporting it and burning it drives up the leakage and venting of methane, a dangerously potent greenhouse gas.