House passes bill to study environmental effects of large solar installations, possible rules for decommissioning

State Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, lamented on the House floor Wednesday afternoon that the Environmental Review Commission that he chairs has atrophied in recent years.

The commission once was a go-to body for lawmakers hoping to thoroughly study environmental matters and possibly move items in bill form to the General Assembly, Dixon said. But in recent years “for some reason or other we haven’t brought the concerns through this commission that we should.”

And with that, he urged his colleagues to vote yes on House Bill 319 to study whether there are potential environmental concerns with solar facilities when they reach the end of their life cycle, and if decommissioning requirements are needed when removing them from the land.

The bill was approved 71-44, and was sent to the Senate.

When passed in the House Environment Committee on April 6, H.B. 319 was opposed by some Republicans. Others, such as Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, said it is good public policy to study the issues to ensure there are no hazardous materials problems stemming from disposal of solar materials.

“The solar industry needs to be responsible for taking them out of farmers’ fields so that they don’t become orphan landfills that we are spending millions of dollars cleaning up,” McElraft said during committee debate.

After approving a few minor language changes in an amendment by Rep. John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, and supported by Dixon, the House passed the bill with no debate on Wednesday. Nine Democrats voted in favor of the measure, and seven Republicans opposed it.

“There are currently no state level requirements for decommissioning solar projects,” Dixon said. “We may not need any.”

However, if it is determined there are environmental risks with aging solar installations, Dixon said, the state should be prepared with a plan for what form  regulations should take.

Dan E. Way / Associate Editor

Dan E. Way joined the staff of Carolina Journal in June 2012 after freelancing for CJ for nearly a year. Dan has extensive experience in daily journalism, editing The Chape...

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