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Legislative Update

March 31

Bill to Help Agency 1 Communities Advances in General Assembly

Earlier this month, we worked to introduce a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly that has the potential the help save ratepayers from wholesale rate increases in NCMPA1 communities.

Due to its co-ownership of the Catawba Nuclear Station, NCMPA1 must maintain a decommissioning fund to restore the site of the power plant when it closes. NCMPA1 is seeking a statutory change that would allow the power agency to invest the decommissioning fund in the existing Ancillary Governmental Participant Investment Program (AGPIP) managed by the North Carolina State Treasurer.

The investment parity could enable lower electric rates – as much as an 8% decrease in wholesale rates for the 19 communities that make up NCMPA1.

The legislation that would allow for that statutory change has now been introduced in both the N.C. House of Representatives and Senate with bipartisan support, and has already been reported unanimously out of the House Energy and Public Utilities Committee. Many thanks to the NCMPA1 members who reached out to their local legislators to urge support for the bill.

We will keep you updated on the bill’s progress and encourage you to reach out with any questions.

 

N.C.’s Former Environmental Chief Confirmed as EPA Administrator

On March 10, the U.S. Senate confirmed Michael Regan as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by a vote of 66-34. Both North Carolina senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, supported Regan’s confirmation. Regan, a Goldsboro, N.C. native, was previously secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). In his new role, Regan will lead environmental efforts for the Biden Administration.

 

Federal and State Covid Relief

Last month in Washington, D.C., lawmakers passed a $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. Of particular interest to public power communities, the bill includes:

  • A $350 billion infusion to the CARES Act COVID Relief Funds (60% would go to states and 40% would be allocated to localities);
  • Access to payroll tax credits for emergency paid sick and family leave for public power utilities;
  • An additional $4.5 billion in Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding;
  • A $19.5 billion expansion of the federal Emergency Rental Assistance program; and
  • A $9.6 billion fund to create a Homeowners Assistance Fund to help homeowners with mortgage and utility payments.

The bill also includes direct payments of $1,400 for individuals making under $75,000 per year and extended unemployment benefits by $300 per week. Importantly, the bill does not include language imposing any sort of moratorium on utility shutoffs.

The state’s HOPE program continues to undergo changes to try and expedite payments to landlords and utilities dating back to the fall. Most recently, the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR) has established an email address specifically for utility providers with questions regarding HOPE program payments. Individual questions can be sent to hopefinance@ncdps.gov. ElectriCities also shared a HOPE program update with members in early March. If you have questions about that update, or feedback about the payments your utility has (or hasn’t) received, please reach out.

Many thanks to all members who responded to our request for arrears data in January. That data has been extremely helpful in providing the state legislature with an overall picture of where North Carolina Public Power stands in the first quarter of the year. As your individual arrears snapshot changes at your utility, please do not hesitate to reach out and share any information with our team.

 

Vaccine Prioritization Efforts for Lineworkers

As North Carolina receives more vaccine shipments and continues to expand those eligible to receive the vaccine, we have been actively engaged in advocating for lineworker prioritization.

As federal and state guidelines continued to shift in the first couple of months of 2021, ElectriCities advocated for the prioritization of certain frontline lineworkers. In our conversations and communications with Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, we urged the state to heighten vaccine prioritization for a subset of utilities’ essential personnel, including electrical field workers, power plant operators, transmission and grid operators, and those required to be in close proximity to others due to the demands of their jobs.

While the state has since shifted to opening vaccinations for Group 4 (with those remaining in Group 5 not far behind), it was important for ElectriCities to advocate on behalf of members and make it known that prioritizing lineworkers will help ensure safe, reliable power can continue to be delivered to homes and businesses across the state.

 

CEO Roy Jones’ Presentation to General Assembly Committee

ElectriCities CEO Roy Jones presented before the N.C. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Public Utilities on Feb. 23, telling new and existing committee members about ElectriCities, ElectriCities communities across the state, and how municipal electric systems are funded and support their communities.

Jones described the energy mixes for both the N.C. Municipal Power Agency Number 1 and the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency, pointing out that NCMPA1 communities enjoy power that is 95%+ carbon free and that Duke Energy Progress, the full-requirements supplier to the 32 cities and towns in Eastern N.C., has reduced carbon emissions by more than 40% since 2005.

Jones told the representatives about public power’s superior reliability along with the services ElectriCities provides to its member cities and towns, including mutual aid, economic development, legislative and regulatory affairs, training opportunities, and more.

To ensure that our voice continues to be heard, Jones offered to be a resource for the General Assembly whenever they consider legislation that could impact the cost or reliability of electric service for our communities.

See Jones’ presentation here.

 

ElectriCities “Visits” Capitol Hill

There was no driving. No hotel rooms. And no hurried lunches while walking through the tunnels under Capitol Hill.

But as in previous years, ElectriCities made the voices of North Carolina’s public power communities heard in the nation’s capital by hosting virtual meetings with members of Congress in early March. The American Public Power Association’s annual fly-in to visit members of the North Carolina Congressional delegation looked different, to be sure. But the virtual format also allowed those who might not have been able to take two days and go to D.C. the chance to participate in a 30-minute meeting, providing the invaluable local perspective on the many issues facing utilities.

The meetings covered a variety of issues that affect public power with our representatives, including clean energy efforts, broadband expansion, electric vehicle infrastructure, cybersecurity, disconnect moratoria, as well as issues specific to individual representatives based on their interests and committee assignments. Learn more about the federal issues affecting public power by visiting our issues and policy page or by contacting ElectriCities Manager of Government Affairs Drew Elliot at delliot@electricities.org.

 

Latest EV Funding Round

Multiple North Carolina Public Power communities received grants for Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations in the latest round of EV funding through the North Carolina Volkswagen Mitigation Settlement Program. The cities of Albemarle and High Point and the Town of Apex applied and were granted funding totaling $64,000 to be used toward 14 electric vehicle charging ports.

Three additional grants were awarded in public power communities that were applied for by either private industry or state government. These businesses and agencies, located in Forest City, Selma, and Smithfield, were awarded a total of $56,000 for an additional 14 electric vehicle charging ports in those areas.

More than a quarter of the funding announced in the recent round was awarded in public power communities in the state. The full list of projects receiving funding in the latest round can be found here.

The Level 2 EV Infrastructure Grant Program has proven competitive across the state, with $1.6 million in requests being submitted for $1.1 million in available funding through this stage of the program. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) anticipates additional Level 2 charging station funds will become available in Phase 2 of the Volkswagen Mitigation Settlement Program.

Local communications are a critical element of our success advocating on your behalf. Please consider participating in our bi-weekly calls for communicators. Please reach out to Elizabeth Kadick, senior public affairs specialist, at ekadick@electricities.org for more information and to be added to the meeting invite.

 

Dates We’re Watching

April 6 and April 20: Bill filing deadlines for the N.C. Senate and N.C. House, respectively

March 3: Deadline submission for 2021 Public Power Rising Star & Distinguished Service Awards

May 11: Mutual Aid Webinar (details to follow)

May 13: “Crossover Day” at the General Assembly – bills that haven’t passed at least one chamber are dead for the session

August 16-18: ElectriCities Annual Conference in Hilton Head, S.C.

 

Contact us

Drew Elliot

Manager, Government Affairs

919-760-6322

Elizabeth Kadick

Senior Public Affairs Specialist

919-760-6285