Monthly Archives: January 2014

Budget Cuts in the N.C. Coastal Management Program

January 30, 2014.  Caught between state and federal budget reductions, the state’s Division of Coastal Management (DCM) eliminated five positions effective  December 31, 2013 including the land use planning director and federal consistency coordinator.  DCM carries out the state’s Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA)  — a joint state-local program to reduce  property damage and injury from coastal hazards; protect public access to the state’s beaches and waterways;  and manage the impacts of  development on sensitive coastal resources.  With the support of Republican Governor Jame Holshouser, the N.C. General Assembly adopted CAMA in 1974 shortly after  Congress enacted the federal Coastal Zone Management Act  to encourage creation of state coastal resource protection programs.  Over the next several decades,  North Carolina became a national leader in coastal policy even as   the state’s  coastal counties experienced an explosion of development activity.

DCM was forced to eliminate these two positions and three others (the Assistant Director for Permitting and Enforcement,  an IT support position and a policy analyst)  after several years of state and federal budget reductions. Federal grant funding under the Coastal Zone Management Act had been flat for over a decade while salaries, benefits and indirect costs increased. The last federal funding cycle  reduced the state grant by 5.9%. At the same time, state appropriations  have dropped  35% since 2009 and permit receipts  fell by  approximately  30%  as the recession slowed development activity.

More on the impact of eliminating the land use planning and coastal consistency positions:

Land Use Planning Director. One  goal of the Coastal Area Management Act  was to plan coastal development with an eye toward conditions that make the coastal area uniquely hazardous and uniquely productive. To work, it had to be a joint state-local effort and CAMA made local land use planning a key part of the state’s coastal management program.  Budget  cuts in previous years  forced the elimination of a long-standing DCM grant program that provided  financial assistance to coastal cities and towns for land use planning.  Ongoing budget cuts have now made it necessary to eliminate the  CAMA land use planning director. The director supervised  DCM’s  planning efforts and worked directly with local government planners.    Supervisory responsibilities for the  planning program has  shifted to DCM’s policy director.

Federal Consistency Coordinator. The federal Coastal Zone Management Act requires federal  activities affecting  the coastal area to be consistent “to the maximum extent practicable” with the state’s approved coastal management  program.  (To be enforced through the CZMA consistency requirement, a state program must be approved  by the  Office of Coastal Resource Management in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.) The approved North Carolina coastal management program  includes development standards adopted under CAMA, but also includes local land use  policies, water quality standards, and other state laws and rules concerning coastal resources.   As a practical  matter, the federal consistency requirement  gives the state an opportunity to review and comment on proposed federal activities and federal permit decisions affecting the North Carolina coast.   In many cases, federal consistency review is the only  way  the state  can influence the federal action.

You can find a list of  the types of federal actions and permits DCM  reviews  here.    North Carolina has most often used  consistency review to request accommodation for state needs rather than to block a federal action entirely.  The state used consistency review  to press the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to put sand from federal navigation dredging projects back on N.C. beaches rather than dumping the sand offshore.  In 1991,  the U.S. Secretary of Interior upheld a North Carolina consistency objection to a federal  permit that would have allowed  Mobil Oil  to deposit drilling waste from an exploratory well onto a commercially important fishing ground off the Atlantic coast. The CZMA consistency requirement also became one of the most important legal tools in North Carolina’s  unsuccessful effort to prevent Virginia from constructing  a pipeline to take water from Lake Gaston to  the City of Virginia Beach.

Loss of the federal consistency coordinator comes at a particularly bad time given the increased  activity around  coastal energy development.  Offshore oil and gas  development  most often occurs in federal waters that are beyond the state’s jurisdiction. (Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, state jurisdiction  only extends  3-miles from shore.)  Without  direct permitting or enforcement authority,  the  state’s only influence over offshore energy activities may be through  consistency review of federal lease and permit decisions.  Since those federal decisions can advantage or disadvantage the different Atlantic coast states, even supporters of offshore oil and gas development may need a way to advocate for North Carolina interests.  Consistency review  also gives the state an  opportunity to influence  federal leases and permits for  onshore and offshore wind energy facilities.

In both 2012 and 2013, the General Assembly  funded new positions in  DENR’s Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources to support work on energy development.   At the same time,  DCM budget cuts have resulted in the loss of a position critical to the state’s influence on offshore energy development activities.    As of January 1, 2014,  federal consistency review  will be divided between two DCM staff  who  review  CAMA major development permits. If activity around offshore energy development  continues to pick up,  the state will need to  reinvest in the federal consistency process to have a voice in how that development happens.

The Links between Coal Ash Disposal and Water Pollution

January 23, 2014. Burning coal  generates ash; depending on the  type of  coal,  the ash may contain iron, chromium,  manganese, lead, arsenic, boron and selenium.   At high levels of exposure, some  of those elements  cause  health problems  such as increased cancer risk and neurological damage.  At many coal-fired power plants, large open impoundments (or “ponds”) store coal ash in water; the ponds may also receive stormwater and process wastewater from the electric generating plant. Dry ash may be disposed of in a landfill, but can  also be  used in manufacturing cement or as additional fill material on construction sites.  Concern about the environmental impacts of  coal ash disposal prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to  propose new federal rules  in 2000. EPA ultimately withdrew the proposed rules in the face of opposition from  electric generating companies, members of Congress and state governments. More than a decade later, regulation of coal ash disposal  remains at a stalemate — no new federal rules have been adopted and Congressional supporters of the electric generating companies have responded to a new EPA  rule proposal by attempting to remove EPA’s authority to regulate coal ash disposal altogether. In the meantime, data collected by EPA and events in North Carolina suggest real risks to surface water and groundwater supplies.

Coal ash in North Carolina.  Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress (related companies  resulting from the 2012 merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy)  have a combined 33  wet coal ash ponds located at 14 electric generating stations  in North Carolina.  You can find a map showing the location of the N.C. ash ponds here.  The  ponds have been largely unregulated until very recently.  No state or federal standards applied to construction of the existing coal ash ponds. Unlike modern landfills, the ash ponds  are not lined to prevent contaminants from percolating into the groundwater below.   Although coal ash  can have some of the characteristics of hazardous waste,  EPA  has excluded  coal ash from federal hazardous waste regulations.

Before  2009, DENR’s water quality program exercised  very limited regulatory authority over coal ash ponds.  The Division of Water Quality (DWQ)  issued a federal Clean Water Act permit for any direct discharge from an ash pond to surface waters, but did not require stormwater controls or groundwater monitoring. State law exempted coal ash ponds and other utility impoundments from regulation under the  N.C. Dam Safety Act. The  state’s largely hands-off approach to coal ash ponds  began to change after a massive spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Kingston plant in 2008.   On December 22, 2008,  an  ash impoundment at the  Kingston plant breached and spilled an estimated  5. 4  million cubic yards of ash slurry. The spill flooded 15 homes, covered 300 acres and deposited over 3 million cubic yards of ash in the nearby Emory River, making it one of the largest industrial spills in American history. The cleanup cost $1.1 billion and  took over four years to complete.

In response to the TVA disaster, North Carolina legislators introduced several bills in 2009 to strengthen state regulation of coal ash disposal.  House Bill 1354    may have been  the most comprehensive; the bill  set standards for coal ash disposal,   required groundwater monitoring around  existing ash ponds, and prohibited construction of new wet ponds.  The bill ran into opposition from the major electric generating companies and never got out of committee. The only piece of coal ash legislation enacted in 2009,   Session Law 2009-390 , repealed  the N.C. Dam Safety Act  exemption for coal ash ponds and other utility impoundments.

Although comprehensive state legislation on coal ash disposal failed,  DWQ increased efforts to use existing state laws to  reduce the water pollution risk and  began putting groundwater monitoring requirements in  Clean Water Act  permits for coal ash ponds in 2009-2010.  One of the factors  in  DWQ’s decision: troubling results from  voluntary groundwater monitoring carried out by Duke Energy and Progress Energy as part of an  industry-led program started in 2006.  DWQ also began  work on  stormwater requirements for  coal ash  disposal facilities.   In 2013,  several things happened  to shine a much brighter light on the coal ash ponds in North Carolina:

Clean Water Act citizens’ suits and  DENR enforcement action.  In early 2013,  the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) filed two  notices of intent to sue under the Clean Water Act  based on water pollution from coal ash ponds. (Under the Clean Water Act, a citizen  can sue to enforce the Act only  if the water quality permitting agency has failed to take effective enforcement action. The 60-day notice  gives the permitting agency  time to show that effective enforcement action has  been taken.)  One notice, filed on behalf of the N.C. Sierra Club, Western N.C. Alliance and the Waterkeeper Alliance,    concerned illegal discharges  into the French Broad River from ash impoundments at the Asheville Steam Electric Generating Plant operated by Duke Energy Progress.  The other notice, filed on behalf of the Catawba Waterkeeper Foundation, attributed contaminants in Mountain Island Lake  – a water supply for the City of Charlotte – to  seeps from coal ash ponds associated with the Riverbend Steam Station in Gaston County operated by Duke Energy Carolinas.

In response to the  two  SELC notices,  DENR filed enforcement actions against Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress  in the spring of 2013 and immediately  began work on a consent order to resolve  the Asheville and Riverbend  violations.   The state enforcement action described  illegal discharges in the form of seeps through the impoundment walls at both facilities and groundwater standard violations near  the Asheville impoundments.  After taking  public comment on a draft consent agreement, DENR filed a revised consent agreement with the court in October 2013.  You can find a copy of the proposed consent agreement  here. The consent agreement would require the companies to pay civil penalties, increase groundwater monitoring  and eliminate unpermitted discharges  to  rivers and lakes. The consent agreement has not yet been approved by the court;   meanwhile, the pending state enforcement action keeps the threatened citizens suits on hold.

Drinking water well  contamination near  the  Asheville  coal ash pond.  In 2012,  the state water quality program   found  high levels of iron and manganese in one of five private drinking water wells located near the Asheville  plant.   When DENR retested the well  in 2013,  the results showed a level of contamination that made the water unsafe for use without filtration and  DENR  ordered  Duke Energy Progress to provide the homeowner with an alternative water supply and increase off-site groundwater monitoring around the  ash pond.   The contaminated drinking water well added another groundwater impact to those  identified in the DENR enforcement action filed earlier in the year.

Duke Energy’s agreement with Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. Last fall, Reporter Bruce Henderson  wrote  an  article  for the Raleigh News and Observer about an  unusual agreement between  Duke Energy Progress and Cape Fear Public Utility Authority.   Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has  two public water supply wells located within 2,000 feet of an impoundment holding coal ash from Duke’s Sutton Electric Generating Plant; one of the two wells supplies water to the Flemington community.  Under the agreement, Duke Energy Progress will pay up to $1.8 million  to extend a water line  to carry treated  Cape Fear River water to Flemington and the Authority will close the water supply well. The agreement is significant for two reasons:

1.  In entering into the agreement, Duke has implicitly acknowledged that  groundwater contamination from  the  coal ash pond  may  move offsite and contaminate  the public water supply wells.

2. The agreement requires  Cape Fear Public Utility Authority to close four existing water supply wells in a 17-square mile area bounded by the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear rivers. The Authority also agrees  not to install new  public water supply wells  in the area.  As a result,  groundwater in the entire 17-square mile area will be off-limits for  public water  supply for the foreseeable future because of the potential for contamination from the coal ash pond. (The agreement does  not affect private water supply wells in the area, but those wells would presumably face the same risk of contamination.)

Total cost of the project has been estimated at $2.25 million and costs above the first $1.8 million will be shared between Duke Energy and  Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. You can find a copy of the agreement (as presented  at the October 2013 meeting of the Cape Fear Public Utility  Authority Board)  here.

National data on environmental harm caused by  coal ash disposal.  A 2007 EPA report   assessed 85 instances of  suspected damage  caused by disposal of coal  ash in  landfills or  in ponds.  In 67 cases,  EPA confirmed  either  “proven”  damage (direct health impacts or documented harm to fish, wildlife, or water quality) or “potential” damage (contamination exceeding  drinking water standards either  beneath or near the waste disposal site).  The 67 cases broke down into 24 proven damage cases and 43 potential damage cases.   In the remaining 18 cases, EPA could not confirm a link between  coal ash disposal and environmental or health risks.

In 2009, EPA  surveyed  electric generating companies  to get  more information specifically on wet ash impoundments and  asked the  companies to report  any known  spills or discharges  that had occurred over the previous ten years (not including groundwater releases).  The 240  companies responding to the survey reported  29  spills, breaches and  discharges.  There was little overlap between the incidents reported in the survey and those assessed in EPA’s 2007 report.  Some of the spills reported in the 2009 survey had occurred since the 2007 assessment; others had never been reported to EPA.

North Carolina in the national data.  Two  of the “proven” damage cases described in the 2007 EPA report involved older incidents at North Carolina facilities.   Permitted releases of  water from a coal ash impoundment  at the Roxboro Steam Electric Generating Plant made  fish in Hyco Lake unsafe to eat for a number of years because of high levels of selenium.  In 1990,  Carolina Power & Light shifted to a dry ash system at the Roxboro plant to meet tighter selenium discharge limits and the fish consumption advisory was lifted in 1994.  In the second “proven” damage case from North Carolina, selenium in  discharges from an impoundment at Duke Energy’s Belews Creek plant entirely eliminated 16 of  20 fish species originally found in Belews Lake, including all of the major sport fish.  Under state orders to reduce the selenium discharge,   Duke Energy changed its method of fly ash disposal in 1985 and the state lifted the  fish consumption advisory for Belews Lake  in 2000.  (Descriptions of the environmental damage at Hyco Lake and Belews Lake come from the 2007 EPA  Coal Combustion Waste Damage Assessment Report; the link is provided  above.)  Duke Energy’s Allen Steam  Generating Plant appears in the EPA list of potential damage cases. The Asheville and Riverbend releases  cited in  DENR’s 2013 enforcement action do not appear in either the 2007 EPA report or in the 2009 survey  responses submitted on behalf of Duke Energy and Progress Energy.

State and federal regulatory action?   In June of 2010, EPA published  a new draft rule on disposal of coal combustion residuals. The rule proposed  two alternative approaches to regulating coal ash disposal –1.  treat the ash as a “special waste” under federal hazardous waste rules, establishing specific standards for disposal; or 2. adopt standards for disposal of coal ash as solid waste (the same broad category that covers other, non-hazardous waste). EPA has not yet decided on  which path to take and in the meantime there have been several efforts to shut down the EPA rulemaking entirely.   In July of 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 2218 (The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013)  which would prohibit EPA from adopting enforceable national standards  for  coal ash disposal and leave regulation to the states.  See the Library of Congress bill summary for more on H.R. 2218.  The U.S. Senate has not acted on the bill.

In North Carolina, the Regulatory Reform  Act of 2013 ( Session Law 2013-413) included a provision limiting DENR’s  authority to require steps to contain groundwater contamination at a  permitted waste disposal facility  — including coal ash impoundments.  For more detail, see the  section on groundwater in an earlier post on 2013  water quality legislation.

So.   It seems clear that large, unlined coal ash impoundments present  some  risk to groundwater,  surface water  and  fish. Recent  events suggest that the risk may be greater than previously known. There was little or no groundwater monitoring around coal ash ponds  before 2006 and  no state oversight of  groundwater monitoring until 2009-2010.  It is simply a fact that groundwater contamination is much more likely to be found if someone is actually looking for it.  The same is true for discharges to rivers and lakes through the walls of coal ash impoundments. The  Riverbend and Asheville  enforcement cases  only happened after citizens documented  unpermitted discharges and gave notice of intent to sue under the Clean Water Act.  It is not clear that the state’s water quality program had found the illegal discharges identified in the consent order or has the resources to do adequate inspections of these large  impoundments.  (The Asheville impoundments alone total 91 acres.) So as new information suggests the need for  frequent, careful inspection of coal ash ponds and quick, effective response to groundwater contamination, state budget and environmental policies are moving in the direction of making both  more difficult.

Environmental Policy in N.C.: Looking back at 2013 and forward to 2014

Some of the most significant environmental policy developments of 2013:

Elimination of the dedicated funding source for parks/conservation programs and repeal of the conservation tax credit.  The budget adopted by the General Assembly for the 2013-2015 biennium  changed the structure of conservation funding by repealing a law that dedicated revenue from the state’s real estate transfer tax (popularly known as the deed stamp tax) to the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (75%) and the Natural Heritage Trust Fund (25%).  The change was part of a  larger legislative trend toward recapturing  earmarked revenues for the state’s general fund, replacing dedicated funding sources with year to year appropriations.  The 2013 tax reform legislation eliminated  the state tax credit for donation of conservation lands.

“Regulatory reform” legislation  focused on state and local environmental standards. The Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 (Session Law 2013-413 ) created a new requirement for review and re-adoption of  existing state rules every ten years.    Although the  legislation applies to all state programs, the General Assembly singled out  water quality standards and wetland rules for the first round of review in 2014.  You can find more on the Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 in an earlier post. The Regulatory Reform Act also puts a one-year moratorium on  adoption of  new local government ordinances that regulate something already  addressed  by  state or federal environmental  rules. The only exception would be for ordinances unanimously adopted by the local governing body — a  phenomenon only slightly  more common than unicorn sightings. A more detailed discussion of the limit on local environmental ordinances can be found here.

Reorganization and down-sizing of the state’s water quality and water resource programs. The 2013-15 budget directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to combine the Division of Water Quality and Division of Water Resources and reduces the budget for the reorganized  programs by $2 million (12.4%) in the second year of the biennium. The budget also makes an additional  cut of over $700,000 to water resource programs.  By  August  1, 2013, DENR had moved all stormwater  programs to the Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources (separating those programs  from  other water quality programs) and reorganized the remaining water quality/water resource programs into a larger Division of Water Resources.  More on  the reorganization here.

How the reorganization and position cuts  will affect DENR’s ability to deliver effective  water quality  and water supply programs remains  a question. Early on, Division of Water Resources director Tom Reeder signaled an intent to make cuts significantly beyond those required by the General Assembly — as much as $4 million versus the $2.7 million in reductions included  in the 2013-2015 state budget — and to move quickly to eliminate “unnecessary” staff positions.  Actual implementation of the cuts seems to have slowed, however, and DENR has not provided an overview of  planned reductions in water programs and staff.

Reduced state funding for water and sewer infrastructure.  Funding for water and sewer systems isn’t often thought of as environmental protection, but  compliance with  federal environmental laws requires adequate wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.  Congress created two state revolving loan programs to help finance infrastructure needed to comply with Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.  DENR manages North Carolina’s revolving loan funds.  Before July 1, 2013, local governments could also apply for  water and wastewater infrastructure  grants from the federally funded Community Development Block Grant Program  in the N.C. Department of Commerce; the Clean Water Management Trust Fund  (for wastewater projects only); and the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center.

The 2013-2015 state budget  reorganized infrastructure funding programs,  moving  the Commerce  CDBG program and the  drinking water and wastewater revolving loan  funds into  a new DENR Division of Water Infrastructure.  The General Assembly also added  a small infrastructure grant program to be  managed by  the new DENR division. The  budget eliminated state funding for the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center (which operates as an independent nonprofit agency) and created a Division of Rural Economic Development in the N.C. Department of Commerce. The N.C. Rural Economic Development Center had previously been the largest source of state grant funds for water and sewer projects.

The changes could have a significant impact on rural areas and small towns that have limited ability to take on new debt and  need infrastructure grants.  The General Assembly  appropriated  $10.8 million to the new  Dept. of Commerce program for rural economic development loans and grants,   but water and sewer projects will  have to compete with other  economic development projects for those funds.  Wastewater projects  eligible for funding by the Clean Water Management Trust Fund will  have to compete with conservation projects for the  $9.2 million appropriated to CWMTF. Only the $3.5 million appropriated for the  new DENR infrastructure grant program has been specifically earmarked for water and wastewater  grants. By comparison, in 2008 the N.C. Rural Center and Clean Water Management Trust Fund combined to award $160 million in water and sewer grants to local governments. You can find more detail and a chart showing 2013-14 and 2014-15 appropriations for state infrastructure programs here.

Limits on DENR  authority  to prevent migration of groundwater contamination.     The Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 (Session Law 2013-413)  limits DENR’s authority to require  “cleanup, recovery, containment, or other response” to groundwater contamination inside the compliance boundary at a permitted waste disposal site.  (When the state issues a  permit for  a waste disposal site, the permit sets a groundwater compliance boundary around the facility. Inside the compliance boundary, the permit allows some  groundwater contamination associated with the waste disposal; beyond the compliance boundary, state groundwater standards must be met.)  The new law will only allow  DENR  to require  the permit holder to take action inside the compliance boundary by showing that the groundwater contamination has already caused –- or will cause — a specific water quality violation or an imminent threat to health, safety or the environment. The new law does not appear to allow DENR to require the permit holder to take steps to contain groundwater contamination  based solely on movement of contaminated groundwater beyond the compliance boundary.

Legislative intervention in  plans to restore  Jordan Lake  water quality.  The federal Clean Water Act requires the state to develop a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for any water body with impaired water quality; the TMDL puts a cap on  the pollutant causing the problem.  About five years ago, the state’s Environmental Management Commission  adopted rules designed to meet a nutrient TMDL for  Jordan Lake. The rules allocate  nitrogen and phosphorus  reductions among  the major sources of nutrient loading to  the lake — wastewater dischargers, agricultural operations, and stormwater runoff from new and existing development.  In earlier General Assembly sessions, legislation modified some requirements of the rules and extended  the compliance deadlines. In 2013,  legislation delayed  further implementation of the rules for three years to test a technology using  aeration to reduce algal growth caused by excess nutrients.  The budget provision funding the technology pilot project became  controversial for several reasons: 1.  the provision includes technology specifications that effectively require  DENR to use  the  product of a particular company;  2. some scientists familiar with the technology  questioned whether it could be effective in a water body as large as  Jordan Lake;  and 3.  EPA does not believe the Clean Water Act allows  use of in-lake treatment  as a substitute for reducing the amount of pollution reaching the lake.  See an earlier post for more on the Jordan Lake controversy and EPA’s response to the legislation.

What to look for in 2014:

Proposed  changes to water quality standards.  The review and re-adoption of water quality standards and wetland rules required under   Session Law 2013-413   has overtaken  DENR’s  planned  internal review of water programs.   As the state’s Rules Review Commission (RRC) began laying out the process for review and re-adoption of rules under S.L. 2013-413,  DENR put the internal review on hold.  Now, the S.L. 2013-413 review of water quality standards and wetland rules will be the vehicle for identifying water quality rules for change or repeal.

Because of the interrelationship of  many water quality rules, the review  of water quality standards and wetland rules required under S.L. 2013-413 will actually pull in nearly 400 water quality rules covering everything from groundwater  remediation to operation of animal waste management systems.  It seems clear, however, that both DENR and the General Assembly  have already set some priorities for review.  Reeder had earlier identified  stream buffer requirements, water quality standards for isolated wetlands and water quality classifications for shellfish waters as high priorities for DENR’s  internal review of water quality rules.   Two legislative study committees and a working group of the joint House-Senate Environmental Review Commission  have also been authorized to  look at issues related to  stream and wetland rules in the interim before the next legislative session.  Stream buffers, shellfish water classifications and wetland rules  have one thing in common — all put  design and construction constraints on development projects.

Elimination of additional  water quality and water resource  staff.  Of the cuts to water programs included in the state budget,  $2 million in reductions  must be achieved  in the second year of the biennium (2014-15)  as a result of the water resource and water quality program reorganization. As noted above, DENR has not yet provided any blueprint for reaching the targeted reductions.  Presumably, the cuts will need to be identified by the start of the 2014-2015 fiscal year on July 1, 2014.

Completion of hydraulic fracturing rules ? The Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) faces an October 1, 2014  deadline to adopt rules for hydraulic fracturing. You can find the status of the rules under development here.  The MEC plans to send all of the  rules out to public notice as a package. Final adoption can only take place after consideration of public comments. The timing may be tight –it will certainly be a busy nine months.

Legislative study  of  local government authority to adopt environmental ordinances.  The Regulatory Reform Act  provision that put a one-year moratorium on new local government environmental ordinances also directed the  Environmental Review Commission  to study and make recommendations to the 2014 session of the General Assembly on the appropriate scope of local government authority to adopt environmental ordinances. The ERC will have an initial public discussion of the issue on January 15.