House approves bill that would limit municipal mandates on energy

Since 2010, Southern Co. has announced acquisition of nearly a dozen “renewable” energy projects — some in Georgia — to help expand the company’s portfolio beyond traditional coal, oil and nuclear power generation. (AJC file photo)
Since 2010, Southern Co. has announced acquisition of nearly a dozen “renewable” energy projects — some in Georgia — to help expand the company’s portfolio beyond traditional coal, oil and nuclear power generation. (AJC file photo)

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Members of the state House voted to approve a bill that would prevent local governments from limiting the type of energy that can be used in buildings and homes.

Rep. Bruce Williamson, R-Monroe, sponsor of House Bill 150, said the bill offers freedom of choice to consumers and supports the kind of competition needed to drive costs down over time. The bill passed with a vote of 103-62 on Monday.

As a restaurant owner, Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, who supports the bill, said natural gas is important to the industry and any local ordinance that might restrict natural gas would put a burden on restaurants. “Have you ever tried cooking eggs on an electric stove?” he asked.

But environmental advocates and city leaders statewide have expressed opposition to a measure that could make it more difficult for municipalities to reach 100% clean energy goals and reduce the impacts of climate change.

“This bill says you have to permit new natural gas infrastructure 20 to 30 years down the road,” said Rep. David Dreyer, D-Atlanta. “If a local government wants to be innovative 15 years from now … we are prohibiting them from doing that.”

In a late afternoon press conference, city and county officials from Savannah and Athens, along with several state representatives who voted against the bill, shared their concerns about the bill’s impact on local government control.

“It is a shame they have positioned this in such a way that they say they are sticking up for the little guy,” said Savannah Alderman Nick Palumbo. “I don’t see them stepping up to the plate and coming down to Tybee and Savannah to help us lift our houses to avoid daytime flooding.”

Rep. Kim Schofield, D-Atlanta, said she was disappointed in her colleagues, and she would support efforts to stop the bill in the Senate. A similar bill, Senate Bill 102, is currently in the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities. Schofield has introduced House Resolution 70, which would support a state goal of 100% clean energy by 2050, the creation of green jobs, and an equitable clean energy transition. “We have an untapped power that we are going to figure out how to mobilize and energize to send a clear message that Georgia needs to do better and do better now,” Schofield said.

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