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Fiery Esquire journalist Charles Pierce weighed in on the Duke coal ash mess yesterday afternoon in this column and, as you can see, he pulled no punches:

“There’s a lot of very weird stuff going on in the newly insane state of North Carolina. The state has a problem with coal ash, and with its groundwater, and with the reluctance of Duke Energy to clean up, among other things, the 39,000 fking [tons*] of the gunk that it spilled into the Dan River in February. The state’s Environmental Management Commission decided that Duke Energy needed a “reasonable amount of time” to correct the groundwater violations. (As should be obvious, you could sail a coal barge through that adjective there.) A Superior Court judge said to hell with that noise and reversed the commission’s findings, demanding that the clean-up begin immediately.

And you will never guess what the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission did.

No, really, you will never guess.

Give up?

They appealed the judge’s ruling.

Told you that you wouldn’t believe it.

Read the rest of Pierce’s column by clicking here.

*… Pierce’s column understated this figure as 39,000 pounds.

Coal ash clean upIf you’re unclear as to the status of the various legal proceedings surrounding Duke Energy’s coal ash mess, be sure to check out this morning’s story over on the main PW site by Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey – “Flurry of filings by Duke and state officials spell lengthy delays for coal ash clean up.” As Sharon reports, things in North Carolina are, sadly, not following the relatively expeditious and effective path they followed in South Carolina (where the clean-up is already underway).

“In just a little over a year, from lawsuit to settlement in 2012, citizen and conservation groups in South Carolina pushed South Carolina Electric & Gas to begin cleaning up coal ash contamination at its sites there.

State environmental regulators stayed out and the utility stepped up, coming up with a plan to remove the ash from lagoons and either re-use it if possible or move it to lined storage elsewhere.

A similar push was afoot in North Carolina as groups investigated contamination at Duke Energy plants across the state, asked the state’s Environmental Management Commission for a ruling on how groundwater contamination rules applied to coal ash sites here, and prepared for lawsuits against the company for contamination at its Asheville and Riverbend plants.

But unlike what happened in South Carolina, Read More

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

[Update: This post originally stated that 41,000 children were on the state's waiting list for childcare. Advocates in the childcare advocacy community have since contacted N.C. Policy Watch to let us know that this number, which dated to 2013, has been reduced to the much-lower, but still too-high, figure of approximately 22,000. We regret the error but stand by the premise of the story.] 

A special press release from the office of state Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos provided yet another powerful example today of the disconnect between the policies of the McCrory administration and the reality “on the ground” for struggling North Carolinians.

According to the release, the Secretary will help celebrate the “Week of the Young Child” by reading to children at a Raleigh childcare center.

To which, all a body can say in response is: Uh, pardon us if we don’t start popping champagne corks. No offense Madam Secretary — it’s a nice gesture — but is that really all you got? If it is, you might want to check out today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File in which Chris explains that the waiting list for North Carolina’s  inadequate, but better-than-nothing-if-you’re-poor childcare subsidy program that you oversee has now reached an amazing and depressing 22,000.

In other words, reading to them a handful at a time is your solution for what ails our kids, you had better get busy.

Richard Burr 2Today marks Day #293 of Senator Richard Burr’s silent, one-man filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for the federal bench in North Carolina’s Eastern District, federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker. Now, today, there is a new and fascinating explanation from one of the nation’s leading judiciary watchers as to what’s really up with Burr’s blockade and those of his fellow conservative senators: secession.

As Andrew Cohen, contributing editor at The Atlantic explains in “How to secede from the union one judicial vacancy at a time,” it really boils down to a matter of extreme, cynical, hardball politics:

“Secession can come in many forms—just ask anyone in Texas who cares to discuss the issue with you. One particularly effective strain currently wending its way through America has been largely ignored by reporters, political analysts, and legal scholars, even though it’s a bipartisan problem within the federal government itself that undermines the rule of law and hinders the lives of millions of citizens.

Call it secession by attrition. Read More

GerrymanderingNorth Carolina is a large and complicated state with a population approaching 10 million. Still, even the most unrepentant defenders of the the state’s gerrymandered political map will have to admit that the following fact borders on the absurd:

During next month’s primary election, there will be 3,069 different ballots. According to North Carolina General Assembly Senior Counsel Gerry Cohen, Iredell County — population 162,000 — will have 249. This is simply ridiculous.

Here’s an idea for combating voter “fraud” (and general chaos in North Carolina elections): Simplify our voting districts by doing away with gerrymandering and enacting non-partisan redistricting ASAP.