Commentary

As the Mining and Energy Commission prepares to meet this Friday to finalize suggested changes to proposed fracking rules, the Fayetteville Obsever writes the state must put forth the most stringent rules from the start. Here’s more from Wednesday’s editorial:

Frack-free-400Fracking in North Carolina would be speculative, constituting a risky roll of the dice. That’s not the case elsewhere, such as in Pennsylvania, where the fuel has been found and is being tapped.

With such risk and no advantage to turning their attention here, well-managed and experienced companies aren’t as likely to take a gamble on fracking in North Carolina right now. Maybe when and if those other locations run dry, but not now.

That’s precisely why getting this state’s regulations right is essential. It’s not those who know what they’re doing that we have to worry about. It’s the wildcatters with barely the equipment, financing or know-how to make a go, desperate for the chance of a big find and willing to cut corners to make it happen.

The North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission is completing work on recommended regulations, adjusting the framework legislators have put in place before opening the door to fracking. The commission’s work will go back to lawmakers, who have the final say.

Having paid attention to feedback at public comment sessions this summer, commissioners are improving rules in ways that will be burdensome for fly-by-night speculators.

That includes allowing unannounced inspections, expanding setbacks to protect local water supplies from runoff and creating a permanent archive of fracking records.

But commissioners haven’t found the right answer to all issues. They appear poised to allow open pits to store fracking waste on the assumption that it’s too late in the process to change that. They say more stringent rules could be added a year from now.

They should heed fellow Commissioner Jane Lewis-Raymond of Charlotte-based Piedmont Natural Gas. She’s advised banning open-pit storage from the start, promising that industry leaders won’t object.

Tough rules now avoid expensive cleanup later. And they should also encourage the riff-raff to gamble on tearing up the earth under some other state’s feet.

Read the full editorial here.

Friday’s Mining and Energy Commission Meeting gets underway at  9:00 AM in the Ground Floor Hearing Room of the Archdale Building located at 512 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC.

Commentary

The editorial board of Raleigh’s News & Observer gets it right on the mark with Tuesday’s editorial recognizing the importance of this Veterans Day:

american flagHere is a day that all Americans can and must embrace. Today, many thousands of Americans in uniform face the same threats, the same imminent dangers, that those in the World Wars faced. They are far from home, where they must protect their own safety, those of their fellow troops and those of the civilians they’re often charged with keeping from harm.

And at home, their families struggle financially and emotionally with the stress of having a mother or father in harm’s way far from home. Military service is demanding in so many ways, and it is good to see the VA intending to put more resources into mental health care to help service members and their families cope.

Those in uniform protect our very freedoms, all those laid out by the Founding Fathers and their successors in the Bill of Rights and the Amendments to the Constitution.

We owe respect to them and to our country. God blesses America in many ways, but one way, one profound way, is with the voluntary and courageous service of those veterans to whom we now pay tribute.

Read the N&O’s full editorial here.

News

healthcare.govOpen enrollment doesn’t begin until Saturday, but starting today consumers can check out the rates and the various plans available for 2015 on the federal health insurance exchange.

Consumers who purchased a health insurance plan through the exchange last year can either renew their current plan or enroll in a new plan for 2015.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, UnitedHealthcare, and CoventryOne are all offering plans on the exchange this year.

North Carolinians will have four categories to choose from: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. For more on those “metal” levels, click here.

To examine the available plans and estimated premiums, visit Healththcare.gov and start by entering your zip code. Consumers can look at the available plans for 2015 and compare them with their current coverage.

November 15th will be the first day to log in and make changes to your coverage. You have until December 15th to choose a plan and complete the enrollment steps to be covered on January 1st of the new year.

News

turnoverMore than 13,500 teachers left their local school districts in the last year, according to figures presented to the State Board of Education on Wednesday.

The teacher turnover rate averaged 14.12 percent statewide, down just slightly from 2012-13.  But some local districts saw an alarming level of teachers leaving the profession.

Washington County saw more than 34% of its teachers leave, followed by Weldon City
(33%) Halifax (31%) and Northampton (28%). Districts with the lowest amount of turnover included Clay County (6%) , Camden County (6.45%), and Graham County Schools (6.67%).

The self-reported reasons for leaving the profession could be placed in one of five categories:

*  Teachers who left for personal reasons: 5,030 responses This includes teachers who resigned due to a career change, family circumstances, health issues, to teach in another state, dissatisfaction with teaching, seeking a career change or decided to retire with reduced benefits.

*  Teachers who left the district but remained in education: 4,093 responses This includes teachers who resigned to teach in another district, charter school or non-public school, or moved to a non-teaching position within the district or at another district or agency.

Source: NC Department of Public Instruction

Source: NC Department of Public Instruction

* Teachers who left for reasons beyond district control: 2,353 responses This includes teachers who retired with full benefits, moved due to military orders, resigned because their Visiting International Faculty term or Teach for America term expired, or left due to reduction in force.

* Teachers who were terminated by the local school district: 1,123 responses This includes teachers who resigned in lieu of non-renewal or dismissal, did not obtain or maintain their license, were not rehired when their probationary contract ended or were dismissed.

* Teachers who left for other reasons: 958 responses This includes teachers who either resigned for reasons not listed in the survey or did not give a reason.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said in addressing the turnover rate the state cannot ignore the importance of classroom support:

“A number of the reasons why teachers leave their district or the profession can be addressed by just giving their profession the respect it deserves. We have high expectations for teachers and their pay and classroom support need to reflect that,” Atkinson said.

To read the draft report and see local figures on teacher turnover, click here.

News

While Republicans registered big wins in the 2014 mid-term elections, it’s worth noting the significance of Rep. Alma Adams‘ victory in North Carolina’s 12th congressional district. In winning the special election to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Mel Watt, Adams will become the 100th woman currently serving in Congress.

As Slate.com reports “for the first time in American history, the number of women sitting in Congress will hit triple digits.”

It’s also the first time in more than a decade that an African American woman has had a voice in the state’s congressional delegation. (Eva Clayton, who was the first black woman elected in North Carolina to serve in Congress, left office back in 2003.)

Adams, a Greensboro Democrat who served in the state legislature for more that 20 years, joins us on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views this weekend to discuss the milestone and the work that lies ahead in representing the district.

For a preview of her radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below:

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