News

On a voice vote, members of the House Judiciary I committee gave the first approval Wednesday to a piece of legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a one-year restricted driving permit.

Rep. Harry Warren of  Rowan County says the legislation has nothing to do with immigration, and would establish a more uniform system of ID cards for the law enforcement community.

Critics said House Bill 328 (the Highway Safety/Citizens Protection Act) is a step toward amnesty, warning lawmakers that constituents would voice their opposition in the next election cycle.

Fred Baggett with the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police spoke in favor of the bill noting that a standard form of identification would be useful to officers statewide.

The bill would need the approval of the House Finance Committee before heading to the House floor.

To learn about other restrictions and what it takes to actually obtain 12-month permit, read HB 328. To listen to some of Wednesday’s committee meeting, click on the video below.

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News
Ash-fill

Duke Energy photo of coal ash being used in a structural fill project.

Lee County residents and concerned citizens packed the Dennis Wicker Civic Center in Sanford Monday night to voice their opposition to plans that would allow Duke Energy to move up to 20 million tons of coal ash to landfills in Lee and Chatham counties.

While Duke Energy says proven technology will ensure that ash is stored safely, those in the audience were less than reassured. Here’s more from the speakers, as reported by the Fayetteville Observer:

 

There were 40 people who spoke during the two-hour hearing, which attracted about 200 people. All of the speakers opposed the proposed permits.

“I am scared to death,” said Shawn Moore, a resident of Lee County. He said he is concerned the coal ash could contaminate his water supply and the land, where he maintains a garden and greenhouse, and hunts wild game.

“I think it is ridiculous that y’all want to dump this in my backyard,” he said.

The audience erupted in applause after his comments, as it did for almost every other speaker.

 

Therese Vick taped a sign that read “local official” to her back, placed a piece of duct tape with “Duke” written on it over her mouth and stood at the microphone for three minutes.

Nick Wood rejected the permits and then read a poem about the affects of pollution.

Lorna Chafe stated her objection, then joined four friends – they call themselves the Triangle Raging Grannies – to sing a song about Duke Energy’s plan.

“They’ll dump it in baggies and declare it contained, but common sense tells us that this is insane,” they sang. “If the water is safe, then here’s what you should do, invite Duke’s bosses to have a glass or two.”

Debbie Hall, who wore a “Keep NC Frack Free” T shirt, said she had concerns with how the coal ash dumps would affect air quality and the possibility of the liners leaking.

“The bullying of this community and the social injustice of the location of this dump is not accepted by us and we hope you won’t accept it. I hope and pray you will not accept these permits.”

Want to have your say?

On Thursday DENR will host a second public hearing from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Chatham County Historic Courthouse, 9 Hillsboro Street, Pittsboro. Written comments will be also accepted through May 16th at: Solid Waste Permitting, N.C. Division of Waste Management,1646 Mail Service Center,Raleigh, N.C., 27699-1646.

You can learn more about Duke Energy’s coal ash management plans here.

News

If you weren’t able to attend NC Policy Watch’s Crucial Conversation with Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Sierra Weaver, that full program is now available online.

Weaver discusses who is behind the plans for drilling for oil and gas off the  Mid- and South Atlantic coasts, and what the public can do to have their voices heard.

Please watch and then share this special presentation:

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Commentary, News

1. New NC teacher of the year says dismantling the Teaching Fellows program one of biggest mistakes made in public education

Ashe County High School English teacher and newly minted North Carolina Teacher of the Year Keana Triplett is also a graduate of the highly praised yet now abolished NC Teaching Fellows program – and she says the program’s dismantling is one of the single biggest mistakes ever made in public education.

“The Teaching Fellows program has made that much of a difference in my career,” said Triplett in an interview with N.C. Policy Watch. “I would not be the teacher I am today were it not for the Teaching Fellows program.” [Continue Reading...]

2. Thousands of seniors anxiously await lawmakers’ budget decisions

When state lawmakers return next week from their unusual spring break, debate over the budget will take center stage as the House puts together its spending plan for the next two years. Most of the public discussion of the budget focuses on teacher and state employee pay, education funding, Medicaid, and business incentives.

The $21 billion plan will also include hundreds of spending decisions that seem small in comparison to the big ticket items but that directly affect the lives of tens of thousands of people, especially low-income families and other vulnerable populations, children, people with mental illness or a disabilities, and seniors.[Continue Reading…]

3. Twelve lousy ideas
The worst proposals thus far in the 2015 legislative session

North Carolina lawmakers treated themselves and everyone else to a spring break this week. Committee meetings and floor votes were suspended and most lawmakers stayed away from the capital city.

In many ways, it was kind of a fitting dead spot in what has been a strange, start-and-stop session. As lawmakers near the midway point of the legislative year, the list of significant accomplishments is a very short one. And while this is a fact that many will see as a great improvement over recent years in which the flood of radically regressive proposals came on like a torrent, the overall lack of purpose that afflicts the General Assembly speaks volumes about what government looks like when many of the people in charge reject the idea of intentional, public solutions to the problems and challenges that confront society.[Continue Reading…]

4. Proposed wage garnishment bill would damage families, fan bankruptcies

The nation is finally and slowly emerging from the Great Recession – a period during which delinquency rates on consumer debts were five times higher than the rates during the previous five years. Simply put, many North Carolinians could not pay their debts because of lost jobs and fast-declining home values.

The result, not surprisingly, has been an explosion in lawsuits, especially by large national debt buying outfits that specialize in purchasing bad debts from the original creditors for pennies on the dollar and then trying to collect whatever they can.

The balance between the rights of these giant creditors to seize property from debtors and the rights of the debtors to keep property necessary to provide for their families is a delicate one. Those who have the ability to pay debts ought to do so. But, when confronted with the choice of paying a consumer debt like a credit card bill or providing for a family’s needs, family should come first. Unfortunately, the ability to put families first has been placed in jeopardy by the introduction of a wage garnishment proposal in the North Carolina Senate (Senate Bill 632) by Sen. Andrew Brock.[Continue Reading…]

5. The growing momentum for tuition equity

Why forces opposed to helping immigrant kids find themselves increasingly isolated The recent and encouraging national progress in resisting efforts to discriminate against LGBT Americans feels very much as if it is reaching the proverbial “tipping point.” Just a few years back, even genuinely progressive politicians were tiptoeing gingerly around the issue.
Today, corporate bosses, sports league czars and even NASCAR leaders, for heaven’s sake, are making it quite clear that they want nothing to do with the forces of discrimination and exclusion.

Some days, it feels almost as if a giant national closet door has been thrust open and that light is quickly spreading into areas long shrouded in darkness. Suddenly, millions of people who lived fearful, second class existences have the real prospect of leading better, happier, healthier and more honest lives. [Continue Reading…]

News

Ddukelogouke Energy has filed an appeal to the $25 million fine issued by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR), calling the penalty both ‘unnecessary’ and ‘excessive.’

The McCrory administration touted the fine issued last month for groundwater contamination at the Sutton Plant near Wilmington as the state’s “largest-ever penalty for environmental damages.”

But officials with Duke argue in their petition the fine deviates from “DENR’s history of responsible regulation” and fails to consider the cooperation by Duke Energy.

Here’s more from the press release issued Thursday by the Charlotte-based utility:

“The Sutton plant generated electricity for millions of customers and operated in compliance with North Carolina pe-suttonlaw and environmental regulations,” said Paul Newton, state president – North Carolina. “We closely monitored groundwater, shared the data with the state for decades, and voluntarily acted to ensure residents near the Sutton plant continue to have a high-quality water supply.”

The appeal, filed with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings, describes a number of instances where the company believes NC DENR’s actions violated state law, the regulator’s own rules and procedures, public policy and the longstanding interpretation of the regulations, including:

  • Fining the company for 1,822 days of alleged groundwater violations despite having sample results for just 27 days.
  • Creating an entirely new methodology to calculate the fine that dramatically increased the size of the penalty, making it $24 million higher than similar fines issued by NC DENR.
  • Failure to consider naturally occurring substances and other potential sources of groundwater contamination in the area.

Duke stresses the utility is working to close 32 ash basins across North Carolina, but cannot remove the coal ash until it has the proper wastewater permits from the state. According to the Charlotte Business Journal, Duke applied for those permits in 2014.