NC unveils major energy legislation reducing coal production. Could it come at a cost?

·2 min read

Republican lawmakers unveiled energy legislation Tuesday, drafted for months in secret with industry representatives, that would hasten North Carolina’s transition away from coal power plants.

The bill urges Duke Energy, the state’s largest utility and a party to the closed-door discussions, to replace the state’s largest existing coal plant with gas-powered generation, a project that lawmakers believe would require utilities and regulators to advance the now-stalled MVP-Southgate pipeline, according to a summary of the legislation obtained by The News & Observer.

While reducing coal plants would bring climate and health benefits with lower emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, the legislation would also come at a cost: incentivizing state regulators to permit the highly controversial pipeline amid concerns about the environmental impact of its construction.

In recent weeks, legislative Republicans raised alarms about the state’s energy infrastructure and its dependence on the Transco Pipeline as its sole source of natural gas. Following the hacking of the Colonial Pipeline, lawmakers’ worries about the impact of any disruption to the natural gas pipeline led the state Senate to deny the appointment of Dionne Delli-Gatti, Gov. Roy Cooper’s nominee to head the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

North Carolina regulators have denied a stream-crossing permit for the MVP-Southgate pipeline, which would carry natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia through Rockingham and Alamance counties. Lawmakers said Delli-Gatti’s inability to explain the Cooper administration’s policy on natural gas was pivotal to their decision.

The legislation also includes several provisions that Duke Energy leaders have called for during calls with shareholders in recent months. During a February investor call, Lynn Good, Duke Energy’s CEO, said their goals for the legislation included shifting away from coal power generation, a regulatory structure that helped it pay for a cleaner mix of sources and ensuring that power generation is reliable and affordable.

“We remain optimistic for comprehensive energy legislation this year, aligned with our shared goals of generation transition and regulatory reforms needed to enable that change,” Good said during a May 10 conference call.

This is a developing story. Come back later for more updates.

This story was produced with financial support from 1Earth Fund, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.

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