Gov. Cooper issues Executive Order requiring North Carolina to ramp up wind energy projects

Offshore wind power will become a more integral part of the state’s clean energy plan, according to Executive Order 218, issued by Gov. Roy Cooper today.

North Carolina will “strive” to develop 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy, enough to power 700,000 homes, over the next decade, with a total of 8 gigawatts of wind power 2040, the order reads.

The 8-gigawatt figure would generate 25% of the state’s electricity consumption.

Since the legislature’s moratorium on wind energy expired in 2018, North Carolina has looked for ways to restart the fledgling industry, not only for environmental reasons but economic ones.

In March, the Department of Commerce released a report showing that one 352-megawatt offshore wind farm would create an estimated 5,522 direct/indirect construction jobs and an estimated 191 direct/indirect jobs.

The order directs several agencies to collaborate on developing wind energy resources.

The state Department of Commerce will designate a coordinator to focus on workforce, supply chain and economic opportunities related to the clean energy economy. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders will also establish a task force to address the fledgling wind industry in North Carolina. That includes “equitable access, particularly in underserved communities, to the economic benefits created by the offshore wind industry.”

The NC Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs also have a role in the offshore wind development.

DEQ is required to collaborate with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other federal partners to advance the leasing and development of North Carolina’s existing wind energy areas. One area, 27 miles offshore of the Outer Banks, would encompass 200 square miles. Avangrid plans to build its Kitty Hawk wind farm there beginning in 2025.

Two more potential wind farms have been identified: Wilmington East would be located 17 miles offshore and encompass 208 square miles. Wilmington West would be 11 miles offshore and encompass 80 square miles.

The agency would also “review, clarify and streamline regulatory and permitting requirements,” as appropriate, that are applicable to offshore wind energy development, related onshore infrastructure and attendant offshore wind energy–related activities.

Meanwhile, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Work would consult on avoiding conflicts among competing ocean uses, such as military operations and readiness, shipping lanes, habitat and migratory patterns, fishing and visibility.

The Environmental Defense Fund issued a statement supporting the governor’s executive order:

Michelle Allen, project manager for EDF’s North Carolina Political Affairs team wrote that the executive order “signals that North Carolina isn’t watching from the sidelines when it comes to offshore wind – our state is ready to seize the moment and claim billions of dollars for the state’s economy while reaping the priceless benefits of a cleaner, healthier, more resilient energy system … Meeting North Carolina’s climate and clean energy goals will require a combination of smart policies to reduce carbon pollution and accelerate clean energy. Offshore wind will play a key role in reducing power sector carbon pollution with proven, reliable, pollution-free energy.”

Likewise, the Sierra Club supported the governor’s order.

“North Carolina is one of the most promising locations on the East Coast for offshore wind development. Governor Cooper’s targets for offshore wind energy production are a clear message to clean energy investors that North Carolina will support their businesses,” said Erin Carey, the N.C. Sierra Club’s director of coastal programs. “We have the location, the workforce, and the backing of state and local governments to take advantage of our coastline’s great clean energy potential and to help address climate change.”

U.S. House members from N.C. asking for $278 million to fund 50 transportation projects

Several members — including Representatives Adams, Butterfield, Manning, Price and Ross — have submitted funding requests to support transit options like electric buses and greenways. Rep, Ross is seeking $9 million to construct an ADA Paratransit Facility in Raleigh. Rep. David Rouzer is requesting $3.84 million for r a highway exchange on Military Cutoff Road in Wilmington.

These requests come as infrastructure takes on a new significance in the U.S., following an expansive proposal by President Joe Biden for $2.3 trillion in spending that could help states pay for building and repairing scores of aging and failing highways, bridges and transit systems.

The White House continues negotiations with congressional Republicans, and it’s not yet clear how much money will be available to dole out or how. But lawmakers have also been presented with the opportunity to earmark transportation funds for the first time in a decade.

For example,  U.S. Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana is seeking $1 billion through Congress’ revamped earmarks process. The Louisiana Republican says Baton Rouge desperately needs a new bridge to alleviate a crush of roadway congestion — at a cost of $955.2 million for several projects. That far exceeds the $20 million that House lawmakers have been told could flow back to each district if a new surface transportation bill is signed into law.

Sen. Thom Tillis: The 1619 Project and critical race theory have no place in nation’s classrooms

 

Thom Tillis

The New York Time Magazine’s “1619 Project” and critical race theory have no place in America’s classrooms, says U.S. Senator Thom Tillis.

The Republican senator from North Carolina made his remarks in a May 21 letter to Durham activist Paul Scott. Scott had written him to complain about Tillis’s support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s letter asking U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to abandon curriculum that McConnell believes tells a revisionist history of America’s founding.

Tillis explained that he believes school curricula are “best set with as little input from Washington bureaucrats” as possible.

“This is why I have significant concerns with the Department of Education’s recent effort to reorient the bipartisan American History and Civics Education programs away from their intended purposes toward a politicized and divisive agenda,” Tillis wrote. “These proposed changes include implementing new federal grant priority for projects using The New York Time Magazine’s 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory (CRT).”

The senator added: “Americans do not want their tax dollars diverted from promoting the principles that unite our nation toward promoting radical ideologies meant to divide us.”

Critical Race Theory is an academic discipline that examines how racism has shaped the nation’s legal and social systems.

Paul Scott

Scott expressed anger and disappointment at Tillis for signing McConnell’s letter.

“As a lifelong resident of North Carolina, I am outraged over your signing of the letter penned by Senator Mitch McConnell to Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona, which included an objection to the 1619 Project,” Scott wrote.

Scott shared Tillis’s letter with Policy Watch this week as the leadership at UNC-Chapel Hill sought to untangle itself from the controversy it weaved in pursuit of Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of “The 1619 Project,” for a tenured professorship in the university’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” recipient, was offered the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, a tenured professorship. But after objections from conservative groups and members of the school’s board of trustees, she was instead offered a fixed five-year appointment.

As Policy Watch reported this week, “The 1619 Project” is a long-form journalism undertaking that, as the Pulitzer Center put it, “challenges us to reframe U.S. history by marking the year when the first enslaved Africans arrived on Virginia soil as our nation’s foundational date.” Hannah-Jones, who is Black, conceived of the project and was among multiple staff writers, photographers and editors who put it together.

The UNC Board of Trustees’ decision to pull back Hannah-Jones’s tenure offer set off a firestorm of controversy. Her supporters vigorously voiced their objection.

Scott said in his letter to Tillis that the senator’s support of McConnell’s position is a “sign of blatant disrespect” for African Americans.

“Regardless of the stated intention, your actions and those of the other signees are reminiscent of the Nazi Berlin book burning of May 1933,” Scott said.

HB 324: Further restricting how racial history is taught in NC

The controversy surrounding Hannah-Jones’s UNC professorship comes as Republican lawmakers across the country push legislation to restrict how America’s racial history is taught and discussed in classrooms.

In North Carolina, the Republican-led state House has approved House Bill 324 that restricts what educators can teach students about race and history. The Senate hasn’t taken up the measure, which Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, would likely veto if approved in that chamber.

HB 324 would prohibit teachers from promoting concepts that suggest America is racist or that people are inherently racist or sexist. It would also prohibit teaching that whites or anyone else is responsible for the sins of their forefathers.

Republican legislatures across the country are pushing bills like HB 324 to keep unflattering parts of America’s history from being taught in public schools.

On Thursday, the Durham Board of Education took up a resolution that urges lawmakers to vote down the controversial state bill. “If necessary, the Board urges Governor [Roy] Cooper to veto HB324,” the resolution states.

The school board posted the resolution on the district’s website to give citizens a chance to review the document before the board approves it next month.

The Durham City Council will also consider adopting a resolution that opposes HB 324.

Cooper proposes asking voters to approve $4.7 billion for school and state building projects.

Gov. Roy Cooper has again proposed that voters approve borrowing money for statewide construction and renovation projects.

But the idea of borrowing, no matter who comes up with it, has proven to be hard to get legislative approval recently. Senate Republicans prefer paying for buildings with direct appropriations.

As part of his budget this year, Cooper has proposed putting a $4.7 billion bond to a vote in November.

-$2.5 billion would go to K-12 school construction.  A report from the State Board of Education and the  Department of Public Instruction based on a 2015-16 survey found school districts needed $8 billion for buildings, additions, renovations, and other capital costs.

-$500 million would go to community colleges

-$783 million would go to UNC campuses. The largest project is a new Brody School of Medicine building at East Carolina University, at $187 million.

The recommendation includes money for renovations at two of the state’s development centers and two of its neuro-medical centers, the state alcohol and drug treatment center in Black Mountain, and money to expand TROSA, a residential addiction treatment center based in Durham, to the Triad.

The bond recommendation includes $229 million to move the state Department of Health and Human Services from the Dorothea Dix campus in Raleigh to Blue Ridge Road.

Assorted state attractions would get a total of $460 million, including $70 million for NC Zoo exhibits.

Cooper included a $3.9 billion general obligation bond as part of his 2019-20 recommended budget that the legislature did not consider.

The state House has been amenable to the idea of asking voters to approve borrowing for capital projects. In the last two years, House Republicans have put together their own bond proposals, and passed them with little opposition.

In 2019, House Speaker Tim Moore cosponsored a $1.9 billion school construction bond bill that moved swiftly through the House and died in the Senate.

approval.

The House tried again last year, passing a $3.1 billion bond bill with the money to go to school construction and transportation projects. That bill also died in the Senate.

A year without testing data aids charter schools seeking longer renewal schedules

Some schools seeking charter renewals might benefit from the suspension of state testing that followed the 2019-20 academic year.

The tests were called off after the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close for in-person instruction. That means achievement data isn’t available for that year to determine whether schools met state academic requirements.

The Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) voted Tuesday to extend the charter renewal schedule for two schools from seven years to 10. If approved by the State Board of Education, Healthy Start Academy in Durham and Union Prep Academy at Indian Trail, a Union County charter, will move from a seven-year renewal schedule to a 10-year schedule.

Healthy Start is led by CSAB Chairman Alex Quigley who didn’t vote on that set of renewals.

Schools that are in compliance with state law, have sound financial audits and whose most recent available achievement data trends in the right direction shouldn’t be penalized because testing data from the 2019-2020 school year is not available, the board agreed.

“If there are no financial issues, if there’s no compliance issues, there’s this kind of spirit right now, which I think is appropriate, that we’re holding schools harmless,” said CSAB member Bruce Friend, noting that school districts were held harmless for enrollment declines due to the pandemic.

In all, the board recommended that eight schools receive 10-year renewals.

Source: Office of Charter Schools

The advisory board recommended five-year renewals for nine schools, including four of which Office of Charter School (OCS) officials said would ordinarily receive recommendations for three-year renewals based on their performances.

Those schools, however, would not have enough academic data in three years to measure whether students made academic progress. OCS officials also worry that testing data collected this year might not provide a valid measure of student achievement.

“This is the reason we’re aiming for five-year renewals to give them time to actually produce data for you to make a decision when they come before you again,” said Shaunda Cooper, an OCS consultant who oversees charter renewals.