159D-7. Approval of project by Secretary of Commerce.

(a) Approval Required. - No bonds may be issued by the agency pursuant to this Article unless the project for which their issuance is proposed is first approved by the Secretary of Commerce. The agency shall file an application for approval of its proposed project with the Secretary of Commerce, and shall notify the Local Government Commission of such filing.

(b) Findings. - The Secretary shall not approve any proposed project unless the Secretary makes all of the following, applicable findings:

(1) In the case of a proposed industrial project, that the proposed project will not have a materially adverse effect on the environment.

(2) In the case of a proposed pollution control project, that such project will have a materially favorable impact on the environment or will prevent or diminish materially the impact of pollution which would otherwise occur.

(2a) In the case of a hazardous waste facility or low-level radioactive waste facility that is used as a reduction, recovery or recycling facility, that such project will further the waste management goals of North Carolina and will not have an adverse effect upon public health or a significant adverse effect on the environment.

(3) In any case (whether the proposed project is an industrial or a pollution control project),

a. That the jobs to be generated or saved, directly or indirectly, by the proposed project will be large enough in number to have a measurable impact on the area immediately surrounding the proposed project and will be commensurate with the size and cost of the proposed project,

b. That the proposed operator of the proposed project has demonstrated or can demonstrate the capability to operate such project, and

c. That the financing of such project by the agency will not cause or result in the abandonment of an existing industrial or manufacturing facility of the proposed operator or an affiliate elsewhere within the State unless the facility is to be abandoned because of obsolescence, lack of available labor in the area, or site limitations.

(c) Initial Operator. - If the initial proposed operator of a project is not expected to be the operator for the term of the bonds proposed to be issued, the Secretary may make the findings required pursuant to subdivisions (b)(1)a. and (3)b. of this section only with respect to the initial operator. The initial operator shall be identified in the application for approval of the proposed project.

(d) Public Hearing, Generally. - The Secretary of Commerce shall not approve any proposed project pursuant to this section unless the governing body of the county in which the project is located has first conducted a public hearing and, at or after the public hearing, approved in principle the issuance of bonds under this Article for the purpose of paying all or part of the cost of the proposed project. Notice of the public hearing shall be published at least once in at least one newspaper of general circulation in the county not less than 14 days before the public hearing. The notice shall describe generally the bonds proposed to be issued and the proposed project, including its general location, and any other information the governing body considers appropriate or the Secretary of Commerce prescribes for the purpose of providing the Secretary with the views of the community. The notice shall also state that following the public hearing the agency intends to file an application for approval of the proposed project with the Secretary of Commerce.

(d1) Public Hearing, Multiple Projects. - Notwithstanding subsection (d) of this section, in the event the bonds proposed to be issued are to finance more than one project, the public hearing shall be conducted by the agency or by a hearing officer designated by the agency to conduct public hearings. The public hearing may be held at any location designated by the agency. Notice of the public hearing shall be published at least once in at least one newspaper of general circulation in each county in which a proposed project is to be located not less than 14 days before the public hearing. The notice shall describe generally the bonds proposed to be issued and any proposed project in that county, including its general location, and any other information the agency considers appropriate or the Secretary of Commerce prescribes for the purpose of providing the Secretary with the views of the community. A copy of the notice of public hearing must be mailed to the board of county commissioners of any county in which a proposed project is to be located and to the governing body of any municipality in which a proposed project is to be located.

(e) Certificate of Department of Environmental Quality. - The Secretary of Commerce shall not make the findings required by subdivisions (b)(1)b and (2) of this section unless the Secretary has first received a certification from the Department of Environmental Quality that, in the case of a proposed industrial project, the proposed project will not have a materially adverse effect on the environment and that, in the case of a proposed pollution control project, the proposed project will have a materially favorable impact on the environment or will prevent or diminish materially the impact of pollution which would otherwise occur. The Secretary shall not make the findings required by subdivision (b)(2a) of this section unless the Secretary has first received a certification from the Department of Environmental Quality that the proposed project is environmentally sound, will not have an adverse effect on public health and will further the waste management goals of North Carolina. The Secretary of Commerce shall deliver a copy of the application to the Department of Environmental Quality. The Department of Environmental Quality shall provide each certification to the Secretary of Commerce within seven days after the applicant satisfactorily demonstrates to it that all permits, including environmental permits, necessary for the construction of the proposed project have been obtained, unless the agency consents to a longer period of time.

(f) Waiver of Wage Requirement. - If the Secretary of Commerce has made all of the required findings respecting a proposed industrial project, except that prescribed in subdivision (b)(1)a of this section, the Secretary may, in the Secretary's discretion, approve the proposed project if the Secretary has received (i) a resolution of the governing body of the county in which the proposed project is to be located requesting that the proposed project be approved notwithstanding that the operator will not pay an average weekly manufacturing wage above the average weekly manufacturing wage in the county and (ii) a letter from an appropriate State official, selected by the Secretary, to the effect that unemployment in the county is especially severe.

(g) Rules. - To facilitate the Secretary's review of each proposed project, the Secretary may require the agency to obtain and submit such data and information about such project as the Secretary may prescribe. The Secretary may also prescribe such forms and such rules as the Secretary considers reasonably necessary to implement the provisions of this section.

(h) Certificate of Approval. - If the Secretary approves the proposed project, the Secretary shall prepare a certificate of approval evidencing such approval and setting forth the findings and shall cause the certificate of approval to be published in a newspaper of general circulation within the county in which the proposed project is to be located. Any such approval shall be reviewable as provided in Article 4 of Chapter 150B of the General Statutes only by an action filed, within 30 days after notice of such findings and approval shall have been so published, in the Superior Court of Wake County. The superior court is hereby vested with jurisdiction to hear such action, but if no such action is filed within the 30 days herein prescribed, the validity of such approval shall be conclusively presumed, and no court shall have authority to inquire into such approval. Copies of the certificate of approval of the proposed project will be given to the agency, the governing body of the county in which the proposed project is to be located and the secretary of the Local Government Commission.

The certificate of approval shall become effective immediately following the expiration of the 30-day period or the expiration of any appeal period after a final determination by any court of any action timely filed pursuant to this section. The certificate shall expire one year after its date unless extended by the Secretary who shall not extend the certificate unless the Secretary again approves the proposed project as provided in this section. If bonds are issued within that year pursuant to the authorization of this Article or Chapter 159C of the General Statutes to pay all or part of the costs of the project, however, the certificate expires three years after the date of the first issuance of the bonds.

(i) Certificate Issued Under Chapter 159C Effective. - Any certificate of approval with respect to a project which has become effective pursuant to G.S. 159C-7 satisfies the requirements of this section to the extent that the findings made by the Secretary pursuant to G.S. 159C-7 are consistent with the findings required to be made by the Secretary pursuant to this section. (1977, 2nd Sess., c. 1198, s. 1; 1987, c. 517, s. 6; c. 827, s. 1; 1989, c. 727, ss. 218(162), 219(39); c. 751, s. 8(30); 1991 (Reg. Sess., 1992), c. 959, s. 82; 1997-443, s. 11A.123; 2000-179, s. 2; 2002-172, s. 5.2; 2003-416, s. 2; 2004-132, s. 2; 2015-241, s. 14.30(u).)