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North Carolina to make trip-reducing 'green' laws illegal

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Joe Mahoney/The Richmond Times-Dispatch/AP/File

(Read caption) A minor traffic accident on Northbound Interstate 95 near Ashland, Va., just north of Richmond, Va., slows traffic to a crawl on Saturday, March 30, 2013. A local ordinance encouraging businesses to prompt workers to carpool is on the verge of being outlawed by the state of North Carolina.

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Oh, North Carolina: Are you cutting off your nose to spite your face?

That's the impression at least some commentators have gained on learning of a state bill that will become law on August 25, with or without the signature of Gov. Pat McCrory.

The bill would invalidate Durham County's Commute Trip Reduction Ordinance, which requires some employers in the county to work toward encouraging carpooling and reducing the number of solo car trips made by employees.

As reported by WRAL, NC House Bill 74 would make such ordinances explicitly illegal.

Backers, including sponsor Rep. William Brawley [R-Mecklenberg], say such programs exceed the authority of a county.

They object in particular to specified fines of up to $1,000 for businesses that don't meet certain provisions--although county officials note that no company has actually ever been fined.

The county says it has met the goals of the bill, and vehicle miles traveled have actually fallen 20 percent within the county.

The goal is to reduce congestion and associated air pollution, along with overall energy usage.

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The ordinance that's about to be rendered illegal required, among other things, that businesses designate an employee responsible for trip reduction efforts, and develop a plan that would encourage staff to cut their total driving time where feasible.

Surveys of employee trips were required every other year, and a $200 administrative fee was levied by the county.

Its abolition is part of a broad pattern of pro-business and socially conservative legislation enacted since January.

On the other hand, not all green hope is lost for North Carolina.

Following a surprising amount of public attention and media coverage, a provision backed by the state's auto dealers association that could have even made it illegal for Tesla to send e-mails to potential customers in the state was removed from a larger bill before it was passed by the state legislature.

It may or may nor be a coincidence that both Governor McCrory and the Speaker of the North Carolina House, Thom Tillis, had taken a Model S for a test drive, courtesy of Tesla lobbyists.

But cutting vehicle miles traveled and encouraging carpooling don't come with rides in sleek, sexy, fast electric luxury sport sedans.

So it looks as if Durham County's effort to make its roads more passable, its air more breathable, and its square mileage more pleasant by cutting car trips will die in 10 days.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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