Commentary, News

Mc-coalash10221.  Cutting through the confusion about McCrory and coal ash

It’s probably getting tough for most people to keep up with all the court cases, settlements, and fines surrounding coal ash contamination at sites across North Carolina owned by Duke Energy. Every week seems to bring another proceeding or ruling or lawsuit.

Governor Pat McCrory and his top environmental officials are not only counting on the confusion to mislead the public they are adding to it, hoping that people fail to grasp the theme running through all the coal ash cases, that this administration continues to refuse to enforce the law and protect the state’s water quality that’s being damaged by McCrory’s former longtime employer.

This week U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs not only refused a request by Duke Energy to dismiss a lawsuit by environmental groups against the company for its leaking coal ash pit near the Yadkin River, she also raised questions about how diligently state officials were working to force the company to clean up the pollution at the site. [Continue reading…]
***Bonus Audio Clip
: SELC’s Frank Holleman on coal ash “sweetheart” deal

2. UNC Faculty Assembly blasts UNC BOG, secretive search for new president

The University of North Carolina’s Faculty Assembly issued a strongly worded statement Friday, saying that the system’s governing board has repeatedly ignored faculty input and pushed forward a secretive process to find a new leader.

The Faculty Assembly, which represents professors and faculty and serves in an advisory capacity to the UNC system and UNC Board of Governors, warned that the new president opted not to meet with faculty during the search process, and could face difficulties in gaining the trust of faculty.

“The faculty will not prejudge the commitment of new President to the well-being of the University,” wrote Stephen Leonard and Gabriel Lugo, on behalf of the UNC system Faculty Assembly. “But he or she must understand…[Continue reading…]

***Bonus Video Clips: Spellings outlines ‘shared promise’ and challenges as UNC system president-elect

UNC President-elect Margaret Spellings responds to past statements

wb-10203. Surprise! Money is a great cure for poverty and its many ills
New and powerful report indicates we’ve been making things much too complicated

It may be hard to believe in today’s world of trickledown, dog-eat-dog, “Trump-o-nomics,” but it was just a few decades ago that a conservative Republican president proposed something that would, today, be widely disparaged as radical socialism. In 1969, Richard Nixon gave a televised address to the country in which he proposed to establish a minimum, federally-funded family income.

Nixon called his proposal a “Family Assistance System” and he proposed to replace the nation’s alphabet soup of income support programs with a simple, basic amount that the federal government would guarantee to all families with dependent children who met certain criteria. This is from the speech:[Continue reading…]

pv-1021c4.Tolling the damage to reproductive freedom from the 2015 General Assembly

We are finally on the other side of the tunnel that was the 2015 legislative session, and it has now become clear that the reproductive freedoms of North Carolinians have, once again, been gravely harmed.

In the deceptive game they played this session, legislators and the Governor claimed to be looking out for the well-being of women, and gave bills titles such as the “Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015.” In reality, these bills created additional, unnecessary barriers to access for reproductive care, and imposed severe limitations on choice.

Had the legislature sincerely wanted to promote the health and well-being of women in North Carolina, they might have passed the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, which would have prevented pregnant workers from being fired or discriminated against, or the Healthy Pregnancies/Prisoners and Detainees bill, which would have prohibited the use of leg and waist shackles on prisoners during labor. These bills were never even considered. Instead, the legislature spent the session stripping away the reproductive rights of North Carolinians and putting choice in the hands of the state government. [Continue reading…]

pv-10-195. How our underfunded courts are bringing back debtor’s prison (and what to do about it)

The United States of America is home to 4% of the world’s population. It meanwhile is home to 25% of world’s jailed population.

The Washington Post recently reported on the dire consequences for a man caught red-handed after his hunger led him to steal $5 worth of snacks in April. Law enforcement subsequently arrested this suspected thief who obviously understood moderation in a way I wish I had in college. The government held him locked him in a cell where he waited for a spot in the mental health facility to open prior to release. While in jail, inmates reported that he often paced his cell covered in his own filth. He died while waiting on August 19, 2015.

In a recent episode from one of HBO’s 9,000 Emmy award winning shows, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the show reported on a grandma who the state of Alabama jailed for her failure to pay a traffic ticket she simply did not have the means to pay. Police executed the warrant for her arrest while she posed to society the immense threat from the confines of her home. She was in jail for 10 days following the arrest until the Southern Poverty Law Center came to her rescue. Her name is Harriet Cleveland and she helped end what the SPLC called a modern-day debtor’s prison. [Continue reading…]

Commentary, News


North Carolina environmentalists scored an important victory this week when U.S. District Judge Loretta C. Biggs denied Duke Energy’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit seeking coal ash cleanup at the company’s Buck plant on the Yadkin River.

As Policy Watch’s courts and law reporter Sharon McCloskey explained Wednesday:

Biggs added that agreements between DENR (now DEQ) and Duke Energy to stop investigation and enforcement in the pending state action evidenced a lack of due diligence on the part of the agency.

“DENR’s prosecution does not inspire confidence that its state court action will move expeditiously to a final resolution,” she wrote.

The judge also refused to stay the case, finding that further delay “has the potential to substantially harm the environment and the individuals who live near the Buck plant and draw their daily supply of water from allegedly contaminated wells.”

Frank Holleman, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, agrees that the state has not been diligent enough in its oversight of Duke’s coal ash clean-up. Holleman, who appears this weekend on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views, finds fault with the recent $7 million settlement between Duke Energy and state Department of Environmental Quality.  (State regulators initially touted a $25 million fine against the Charlotte-based utility.)

“It was really a tremendous climb down and cave-in by the state in this settlement agreement, and really made their initial press release for this proposed fine look like a bad joke,” said Holleman.

Click below to hear an excerpt of Holleman’s radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon:

YouTube Preview Image

If you missed the News & Observer’s special series last week on wage theft and the reluctance of the NC Department of Labor to crack down on unscrupulous employers, be sure to listen to NC Policy Watch’s radio interview with reporter Mandy Locke.

Locke  describes state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry as a reluctant regulator who has done relatively little to aid unpaid workers. From the series:

The Labor Department left hundreds of workers hanging in 2014.

For claims that investigators were fully able to investigate and validate for 1,521 workers, roughly 40 percent of the workers didn’t get the help they requested. Investigators did not collect $1 million in wages they determined were owed to 617 workers.

That amount was nearly half of the money investigators found was due. Those wages were, in effect, stolen from workers who count on each paycheck to pay bills and buy food.

Listen to an excerpt of Chris Fitzsimon’s interview with Locke below. A podcast of the full radio interview is available here.

YouTube Preview Image