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NC governor vetoes 2 bills, saying they hurt his climate and environment efforts

Gov. Roy Cooper appealed for support in fighting legislation that he says would undo his clean energy efforts. He spoke at the State Energy Conference in Raleigh Wednesday.
David Boraks
Gov. Roy Cooper appealed for support in fighting legislation that he says would undo his clean energy efforts. He spoke at the State Energy Conference in Raleigh Wednesday.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday vetoed two bills that he says would undermine his administration's efforts on the environment and climate change.

The governor vetoed House Bill 600, this year's regulatory reform bill, as well as Senate Bill 678, which redefines clean energy to promote Duke Energy's plans to build new nuclear plants.

In a statement, Cooper said the regulatory reform bill is filled with bad provisions.

"This bill is a hodgepodge of bad provisions that will result in dirtier water, discriminatory permitting and threats to North Carolina’s environment. It also undoes a significant policy to promote fairness in state contracting for historically underutilized businesses as it blocks efforts to encourage diverse suppliers for state purchases, rules that would save taxpayer dollars and help businesses grow."

Among other things, provisions in the regulatory reform bill could speed up permitting for a proposed extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline into North Carolina. The 304-mile main pipeline would carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia and the proposed Southgate extension would bring it to central North Carolina.

Another section would ease requirements on discharges of hog waste and other animal waste and could make it harder to consider environmental injustice in issuing permits.

The governor said he vetoed the energy bill because it deviates from previous bipartisan legislation to support clean energy to fight climate change.

"North Carolina is on a bipartisan path to removing carbon from our electric power sector in the most cost-effective way. This bill attempts to diverge from that path by trying to put construction of traditional power plants, and higher profits for the utility companies, over lower-cost solutions like energy efficiency. North Carolina should consider all pathways to decarbonize, rather than putting a thumb on the scale in favor of building new conventional generation," Cooper said.

Charlotte-based Duke Energy supports the bill and has proposed replacing some North Carolina coal plants with a new generation of small nuclear reactors. Duke is also adding solar, wind and hydroelectric capacity as it tries to reduce fossil fuel use to meet the state's climate goals.

It's not clear whether the Republican-led General Assembly can override the vetoes. The regulatory reform bill had a veto-proof majority in the House, but not the Senate. And the energy bill fell short of veto-proof margins when it passed in both chambers.

Environmental groups quickly applauded the vetoes.

"The governor's veto of HB 600 is welcome, and we urge every lawmaker to uphold it. This bill is a grab bag full of gifts for special interests that will degrade the environment and threaten public health in our state," said Grady McCallie, policy director at the North Carolina Conservation Network.

"We thank Governor Cooper for taking a stand against this legislation which protects industry over people. By vetoing this bill, Governor Cooper demonstrates his continued commitment to a healthy environment and a clean energy economy that will bring jobs while protecting our state’s most vulnerable citizens," said Cynthia Satterfield, director of the Sierra Club’s North Carolina Chapter.

Sen. Paul Newton, a Republican from Cabarrus County and Duke Energy's former state president, called for lawmakers to override the vetoes.

"Gov. Cooper's hardline opposition to nuclear power is a slap in the face to North Carolina's energy industry. He would rather glorify the Green New Deal than strengthen energy production in our state. I look forward to overriding his veto and ensuring that North Carolina can have a reliable electrical grid," Newton said in a statement.

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David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.
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