By Samantha Walker and Rory Fleming, Research Law Fellows
N.C. Coastal Resources Law, Planning, and Policy Center
This is a guide to inform researchers, scientists, lawyers, and other professionals interested in coastal law and policy issues. The guide separates legislative materials into two categories: (1) Session Laws and (2) new and amended legislation enacted as a part of the 2014 State Budget. Part I, which was published in a previous post, summarizes the Session Laws and provisions from the State Budget that relate specifically to coastal law and policy. This post (Part II) summarizes provisions from the 2014 State Budget that have general application to environmental law and policy in North Carolina. While these provisions have application to the coastal region, they also have wider applicability.
Natural and Economic Resources
The Wildlife Resources Commission General Fund budget was reduced by $3,313,319. This brings the Wildlife Resources Commission 2014-2015 budget to $11.1 million and represents a $1 million decrease in last year’s allocation.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) received an additional $1,534,820 from the NC General Fund, bringing their fiscal year 2014-2015 funding to $159.3 million.
Adjustments in the budget include $5 million from DENR Special Funds. Diversions include: transfer of interest from DENR Special Funds ($793,095); diversion of funds from DENR Inspection and Maintenance Control Special Fund ($3,300,000); and diversion of funds from DENR Water and Air Account Special Fund ($1,000,000). The funds from these accounts were predominately transferred to cover additional Medicaid expenses. In addition to the decrease in DENR funding, the interest from the following funds are redirected to the general fund:
The Office of State Budget and Management and the Office of the State Controller were authorized to establish a pilot program to test measures for improving the extent to which funds spent are properly budgeted. Included in the pilot program are grant programs and special funds within DENR and unexpended appropriations carried forward by UNC pursuant to N.C.G.S. 116-30.3. The provision allows for other programs to be part of the pilot as necessary.
Department of Health and Human Services
Increased Fee for Private Well-Water Testing
Although the fee for analyzing private well-water samples increased from $44 to $74, the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with DENR, will analyze options for reducing or waiving the fee for low-income households. These households are at or below three hundred percent of the current federal poverty level.
TVA Settlement Funds
In 2011, the Tennessee Valley Authority entered into a settlement agreement pursuant to a dispute over TVA’s compliance with the EPA’s Clean Air Act. The budget allocates $2,240,000 per year for two years (2013-2015) from the settlement to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Department will divest the $1,000,000 from the award to the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Fund, which will further grant funds to Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, and Yancey counties. $500,000 from the total award is allocated to “Environmental Mitigation Projects” in the above stated counties. Another $500,000 from the award is allocated through the North Carolina Agricultural Water Resources Assistance Program in the above stated counties. The remaining $240,000 is allocated to the Appalachian Energy Center at Appalachian State University.
Low-income Home Energy Assistance Block Grant
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIEAP) Block Grant allocates funds for energy assistance payments for the households of elderly citizens with income up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level or disabled citizens who are eligible for services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services. The 2014-2015 budget reauthorized the same state funds as last year ($50,876,440) to meet the eligibility requirements for federal funding for low-income home energy assistance programs.
Local program expenditures of the federal grant fund North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Low Income Energy Assistance Program and Crisis Intervention Program. These programs received approximately $85 million for the 2014-2015 yeard the Division of Social Services received approximately $6.5 million for local administration expenses.
Included in the low-income home energy assistance block grant are DENR’s Heating Air Repair and Replacement Program (HARRP) and Weatherization programs.
DENR’s HARRP and Weatherization Program
DENR received federal block grants that totaled approximately $21 million for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Of the $21 million allocated, $6.6 million will go to DENR’s HARRP and $13.8 million will go to DENR’s Weatherization Program. This represents a decrease from the $22.7 million allocated for the same programs in fiscal year 2012-2013.
DENR’s HARRP provides funds to local community action agencies for the purchase and installation of materials such as ceiling, wall and floor insulation, caulking, and weather-stripping on the homes of low-income families, particularly the elderly and handicapped, in order to make the homes more energy efficient, reduce monthly utility bills, and provide a more healthful living environment. The program lost about half a million from last year’s budget. During fiscal year 2012-2013, HARRP received about $7.2 million for the program. This year, that amount was decreased to $6.6 million. HARRP’s local residential energy efficiency service providers and administration budgets were cut slightly as well. Last year’s local service providers’ budget was cut from $338,352 to $312,227. Last year’s administration budget of $338,352 was cut to $312,226.
DENR’s Weatherization Program provides cost-effective energy efficiency measures for existing residential and multifamily housing with low-income residents. The Weatherization Program’s local residential energy efficiency service providers and DENR administration both received significant increases over last year’s budget. Last year, local residential energy efficiency service providers and administration expenses received only $37,257. This year, the programs each received $692,950, or more than 18 times the previous year’s allocations.
The budget also includes transfers of personnel from DENR programs to other state agencies. DENR programs reduced include the Weatherization Program, HARRP, and local residential energy efficiency service providers and administration of HARRP.
Aquatic Weed Control
A maximum of $500,000 is allocated for aquatic weed control projects. These projects are designed to assist North Carolina citizens and local governments burdened with aquatic weed infestations.
Department of Cultural Resources
The Historic Roanoke Island Fund
The budget shifts administration of the Historic Roanoke Island Fund to the Department of Cultural Resources. Although it adds an additional $688,852 to the Department of Cultural Resources, the budget also cuts $9,000 from the Roanoke Island Commission.
Department of Transportation
State Parks and Trails Signage
The Department of Transportation, DENR’s State Parks and Recreation Division, and the Department of Commerce will study current highway signage and determine:
(1) Whether current signs sufficiently marks cultural and historical sites;
(2) Whether current signs adequately inform travelers about historical roads and routes;
(3) What could be done to improve efficacy of highway signage; and
(4) What the costs and benefits are of changing current signs.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
DENR’s capital improvements allocation was cut nearly in half from last year’s $11,522,000 to $5,810,000 for fiscal year 2014-2015.
Water Resources Development Projects
DENR will allocate funds for water resources development projects including:
(1) B. Everett Jordan Lake Water Supply Storage ($200,000)
(2) Wilmington Harbor Maintenance – Disposal Area 8 & 10 ($4,000,000)
(3) Morehead City Harbor Maintenance ($0)
(4) Wilmington Harbor Deepening ($600,000)
(5) Wilmington Harbor Improvements Feasibility Study ($200,000)
(6) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Equipment Projects ($2,000,000)
(7) Planning Assistance to Communities ($25,000)
(8) Hookerton, NC – Stream Bank Erosion Repair of Sec 14 ($410,000)
(9) State/Local Water Resource Development Grants ($1,000,000)
These projects are funded from $2,625,000 carried forward from previous fiscal years. In sum, this serves as a state match for approximately $9.65 million in federal funds.
Contact the N.C. Coastal Resources Law, Planning, and Policy Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-515-1895. Or follow them on Twitter @oceancoastallaw.