Oversight and regulation of utilities is a critical part of state government, particularly now as broadband service has become vital to the operation and success of our businesses.
During this past session, we made several important changes to our utility laws to allow better service for the people of our state while also trying to relieve companies of some of their reporting requirements when possible. We believe these changes will help create a more efficient system in our state.
Thank you as always for your interest in state government. If you have any questions about this information or anything else that I can help with, please contact me. I am always glad to be of service.
Public utility franchises that provide telephone service within a defined area may now provide that same service in adjacent areas if it also provides broadband service [S.L. 2009-80 (HB 135)]. This provision applies only when the existing telecommunications provider in the adjacent area is not providing broadband service to the customer.
The moratorium on the collection of the 911 fee from prepaid wireless providers has been extended through the 2010 calendar year [S.L. 2009-90 (HB 1027)].
Utilities/Carrier of Last Resort
Carriers of last resort can now be relieved of their obligations for an area if that area has entered into an agreement with a communications provider that precludes the carrier from offering service in that area [S.L. 2009-202 (SB 889)]. The appropriate state agency and the people in the area have to be notified of the change. A provider also may be granted a waiver of its carrier of last resort responsibilities if it makes a showing to the appropriate state agency of all of the following: (1) providing service in the area would be inequitable or unduly burdensome; (2) one or more alternative service providers exist; and (3) granting the waiver is in the public interest.
Consumer Choice and Investment Act of 2009
A new state law allows incumbent local telephone providers open to competition from other telephone service providers to elect to participate in an alternative form of regulation [S.L. 2009-238 (HB 1180)]. The alternative form of regulation exempts the companies from filing certain reports with the State Utilities Commission. In exchange, the companies commit to providing stand-alone basic service to rural customers at rates comparable to rates charged to urban customers and agree to limits on rate increases.
Utilities/Regulation of Pole Attachments
Municipalities and certain membership corporations are required to permit communications providers, including providers of telephone service, broadband service, or cable service, to use their poles, ducts, and conduits at reasonable rates and conditions under negotiated agreements under a new state law [S.L. 2009-278 (SB 357)]. A request to a municipality or membership corporation to use its poles, ducts, or conduits may be denied only if there is insufficient capacity, or if the attachment would damage the safety or reliability of the item. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement to allow attachment, either party may bring an action in business court.
Electric utilities can now recover operating costs and investment in renewable energy plants. These include facilities that generate electricity using solar electric, solar thermal, wind, hydropower, geothermal, or ocean current or wave energy, and that displace enough traditional electric generation that greenhouse gases will be reduced. Also, the State Dam Safety Act [S.L. 2009-390 (SB 1004)] will now cover some dams connected to electricity generation.
Joint Legislative Utility Review Committee Studies
The Joint Legislative Utility Review Committee has been appointed and is in the process of studying: (1) the feasibility and suitability of feed-in rates to be paid to renewable energy electricity producers by electric power suppliers; (2) electric public utilities’ purchase and use of coal that is extracted using mountaintop removal coal mining; (3) ways to establish a system of permits to be issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for wind energy facilities; (4) the creation of NC Saves Energy as an independent energy efficiency administrator for the state to administer energy efficiency and energy conservation programs and programs to promote the sustainable use of energy; (5) the possibility of extending the standards governing energy efficiency and water use for major facility construction and renovation projects involving state, university, and community college buildings to major facility construction and renovation projects for entities that receive state funding; and (6) the necessity of requiring utilities to notify property owners of rights-of-way or adjacent land prior to applying pesticides to the rights-of-way [S.L. 2009-574, Sec. 8 (HB 945, Sec. 8)].
Plastek Industries, a leading maker of plastic consumer, cosmetic and pharmaceutical packaging, plans to create 250 jobs and invest $19 million in Richmond County over the next three years. The project was made possible in part by state grants from the One North Carolina Fund and the Job Development Investment Grant program.
Michelin North America Inc. will expand its operations in Stanly County. The company plans to create 74 jobs and invest more than $11.3 million during the next three years in Norwood. The project was made possible in part by a $620,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund.
Albaad USA Inc., an international supplier of wet wipes for varied uses, will expand its plant in Rockingham County. The company will invest more than $9 million and create 95 jobs in Reidsville. The announcement was made possible in part by a $350,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund.
Mountaire Farms Inc., an international supplier of processed chicken and chicken products, will expand in Robeson County. The company will invest $17.9 million and create 51 jobs in the next three years. The announcement was made possible in part by a $150,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund.
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By working together, we can make Northampton, Vance and Warren Counties and all regions of North Carolina a better place to live, work and raise a family.
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