agriculture, Environment

Don’t spray this at home: Bee-friendly bill would limit public sales of certain pesticides

Bee hive at American Tobacco Campus, Durham (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

T oday was Ag Day at the legislature, and the commons was packed with people promoting North Carolina livestock, fruits and vegetables, including watermelons, strawberries, sweet potatoes and even wine. All of these crops need bees to pollinate them; in the case of wine, mead, like that produced at Starrlight in Pittsboro or Honeygirl in Durham, requires a consistent supply of high-quality honey made by healthy bees.

But neonicotinoid pesticides, also known as neonics, threaten the bee population in North Carolina and nationwide. These pesticides dull a bee’s memory, as if the insect had dementia, preventing it from finding its way back to its home hive. The chemicals weaken a bee’s immune system, making it vulnerable to disease and mite infestations. Direct exposure can kill the bee within minutes.

Introduced on Ag Day, House Bill 363 would limit the purchase and use of neonicotinoid pesticides to licensed applicators, farmers and veterinarians. No longer would the casual gardener be able to buy Rose Defense, Ortho Bug B Gon or Mallet — all brand names of neonic products — off the shelf. Large hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s are already phasing out neonics, but smaller retail outlets still carry them, said Preston Peck, policy director for Toxic Free NC.

The bill is modeled on legislation passed in Maryland, Connecticut and Minnesota. Co-sponsors are Democrats Pricey Harrison and Grier Martin, and Republicans Chuck McGrady and Mitchell Setzer.

From left: Hoke County beekeeper Rodney Medley, Toxic Free NC Policy Director Preston Peck and State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), one of four co-sponsors of House Bill 363. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

McGrady, a beekeeper when he’s not at the General Assembly, said the issue is “near and dear to my heart.”

Former beekeeper and state Rep. John Ager of Buncombe County owns an apple orchard and a blueberry farm. “This is critical right now,” said Ager, a Democrat. “This is my farm’s future. .

In 2015-16, those repeated physical insults resulted the loss of 44 percent of commercial hives across the U.S. because of colony collapse disorder. In North Carolina, that tally was 41 percent. “That’s staggering and unsustainable,” Peck said.  In January, US Fish & Wildlife Service listed the rusty-patched bumblebee as an endangered species. Part of its demise, Peck said, can be attributed to neonics. (The order has not gone into effect, pending the Trump administration’s and Congress’s dismantling of the ESA).

And there is a growing body of evidence that indicates these chemicals run off from farm fields and into waterways, where they harm aquatic life.

The bill also directs the NC Pesticide Board to monitor EPA studies about neonics and to study whether the state should regulate the sale of seeds coated with neonics. Those seeds are particularly harmful to birds.

The state Pesticide Board has had ample opportunity to regulate the sale of neonics. For more than two years, Peck has lobbied the board to exercise its regulatory authority. Over the past six months, the board has heard presentations from scientists and experts on the effects of the pesticides, both on pollinators and aquatic life. It also learned that NC Department of Environmetnal Quality doesn’t test waterways for the pesticide. Nonetheless, just yesterday the board again punted the issue, voting to take no action.

Nothing hurts more than opening a hive and finding out that it’s dead Click To Tweet

“The regulatory authority has chosen not to do anything,” Peck said. “Now we’re turning to the legislature.”

Rodney Medley has five hives in Hoke County. “I’m not saying get rid of pesticides altogether, but we need to mitigate the additional pressure on bees,” he said. “Nothing hurts more than opening a hive and finding out that it’s dead.”




agriculture, Trump Administration

USDA scrubs animal welfare data from website; Humane Society threatens to sue

A neglected horse at the Haven in Raeford, which was shut down by Hoke County officials in January 2016. More than 1,000 animals lived at the “no-kill” facility, which had operated for 10 years, with no substantive penalty from state officials. The Haven’s owners, Linden and Stephen Spear, were charged with several counts of animal cruelty. Unlike the federal government, the NC Agriculture Department makes its animal inspection records publicly available on its website.(Photo: ASCPA)

Vital public records of more than 9,000 licensed animal facilities — commercial dog breeding operators, Tennessee walking horse show participants, roadside zoos, animal research labs, and other operations regulated under federal law — disappeared late last week from the US Department of Agriculture website. Now, the Humane Society of the United States is threatening to sue the USDA, asserting that removing that information violates a 2009 settlement agreement between the two parties.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS, blogged today about the group’s intent to sue if necessary:

The nonprofit animal welfare group is challenging “this outrageous action that undermines longstanding consensus about public access to information concerning these laws, and frustrates state, local, and industry efforts to help enforce them.

The public information, scrubbed without notice, included inspection documents, annual reports from research facilities and enforcement records. Not only do animal welfare groups use these records, but also law enforcement agencies when they are investigating allegations of abuse or neglect.

In a letter dated today, HSUS attorneys notified the US Department of Justice that if the information is not restored online, the group intends to reopen the lawsuit that led to the settlement agreement. The letter goes on to cite 1996 and 2016 amendments to the Freedom of Information Act that require these records to be posted electronically. While these paper versions of these records are ostensibly available via FOIA, it can take months or even years for federal agencies to fill those requests.

HSUS said it plans to take further action unless “USDA reconsiders this bizarre reversal of the agency’s longstanding policy …”

In North Carolina, the Animal Welfare Section of the state agriculture department posts inspection reports of animal shelters, both public and private. These records alerted the public to a famous hoarding and neglect case at the Haven in Hoke County, where more than 1,000 animals lived — and even more died — on a farm outside of Raeford. The records described horrible living conditions: animals exposed to the weather, crammed into cages, and lacking adequate food and water. Although state officials revoked the Haven’s license, it never followed through on fining the owner, Linden Spear. For at least 10 years, the Haven was allowed to operate. Then in January 2016, Hoke County Sheriff’s Department and the ASPCA seized more than 600 animals; Spear and her husband, Stephen Spear, were charged with animal cruelty and illegal possession of a controlled substance, a federal offense. They have not yet gone to trial.

agriculture, Environment, Legislature

House Speaker Tim Moore names committee leaders, some with dubious environmental histories

House Speaker Tim Moore announced his appointments for committee chairs today, the people in charge of herding the membership and their bills. All of the top posts for the environmental and agriculture committees went to Republicans.

In addition to the chairs specific to the environment and agriculture, the Regulatory Reform committee leadership also bears watching. Many environmental laws are chopped, crushed  and pureed in the R &R.

The appropriations committee leaders are also key. Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Henderson County Republican, often is the main budget writer for environmental bills. Reps. Jimmy Dixon and Pat McElraft, who hold dual chairmanships, have a history of sponsoring anti-regulatory legislation.

Rep. Mark Brody

Rep. Mark Brody


Mark Brody (Anson, Union) co-sponsored the Industrial Hemp bill last session, which is intended to support the burgeoning textile. Note this industrial hemp, and limited to cultivation by state universities. The SBI and local law enforcement can inspect the plots.

  • Rep. Jimmy Dixon (Duplin, Wayne) consistently criticizes the media, which increases the entertainment value of committee meetings. He’s a staunch defender of industrialized farming and co-sponsored a bill prohibiting counties from regulating the care of farm animals. By care, the bill means housing, feed, medicine, and exercise and socialization requirements. In other words, local animal welfare laws that apply to dogs and cats don’t extend to cattle, oxen, bison, sheep, swine, goats, horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, hinnies, llamas, alpacas, lagomorphs (a type of hare), ratites (flightless birds) and poultry.
    Dixon was the lead sponsor on more than a half dozen environmental bills that would have weakened regulations, had they passed.
  • Bob Steinburg, who represents six counties in northeastern North Carolina, sponsored five environmental or agricultural bills last session. Of those, one would have extended tax credits to those buying, leasing or building renewable energy facilities. Another would have relaxed regulations on billboards. (See below under Rep. Jeff Collins.)
    A successful bill to boost the state’s industrial hemp program became law. His colleague Mark Brody co-sponsored that bill, as well.


  • Jimmy Dixon (see above)
  • Pat McElraft (see below)
  • A real estate broker, Kyle Hall (Rockingham Stokes) is in his first full term as a House member. Thus, he sponsored few bills last session. In November 2015, the then-25-year-old was appointed to serve out the unexpired term of Rep. Bryan Holloway. Holloway resigned to become a lobbyist with the NC School Boards Association.
  • Stephen Ross (Alamance) co-sponsored the renewable tax credit bill and with Chris Malone (see below), a bill to help protect the public from the environmental and public health hazards of fracking.


  • Four-term representative Jeff Collins (Franklin, Nash), co-sponsored the anti-renewables bill Energy Policy Amendments. It would have plateaued the required benchmarks in the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.
    He also was a primary sponsor of House Bill 304, which would relaxed regulations regarding the placement of billboards, including the digital variety. Some jurisdictions, like the City of Durham, don’t allow digital billboards; others, such as Research Triangle Park, prohibit them altogether. This bill could have usurped that authority.
  • On the up side, John Szoka (Cumberland) co-sponsored a bill that would have provided people who built, bought or leased renewable energy a 35 percent tax credit on the cost of property. It didn’t pass, but a study bill of the Cape Fear water resources did.
Rep. Pat McElraft

Rep. Pat McElraft


  • Pat McElraft (Carteret, Jones) has been responsible for several bills that weakened, or would have weakened, environmental regulations. Last session, she wa also a primary sponsor of “Energy Policy Amendments.
    McElraft also was the primary sponsor of House Bill 576, which would have studied the feasibility of discontinuing TV recycling. Instead, televisions and their attendant heavy metals could do directly to a municipal landfill. The bill did not pass.
    Another of her bills would have weakened stormwater and stream buffer requirements. The clock ran out on the session before the bill could be reconciled in conference committee.
    House Speaker Moore also named McElraft to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources.
  • Larry Yarborough (Granville, Person) led the House in sponsoring a bill that amended the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014. The 2016 legislation was criticized by environmental advocates because it allowed Duke Energy to reclassify its coal ash dams as low-risk if the utility provided permanent water to eligible residents and repaired the dams. That in turn, permitted Duke to keep the coal ash onsite at those facilities in a lined, capped landfill.
Rep. Jay Adams

Rep. Jay Adams


agriculture, Environment

Senator Berger names environment/agriculture committee

Sen. Phil Berger named 17 lawmakers — 13 Republicans and four Democrats — to the committee on agricultural, environment and natural resources today. Brent Jackson and Andrew Brock are the best-known Republican names, having served on similar committees since the GOP took power in 2011. They have consistently sponsored or co-sponsored bills that would relax environmental rules.

There are three chairmen:

  • Bill Cook, who retired from Potomac Electric Power Co., a utility based in Maryland and Washington, D.C. A Republican, he represents eight counties in northeastern North Carolina; this is his third term in the Senate.
  •  Norman Sanderson, a Republican representing the coastal counties of Carteret, Craven and Pamlico. On his personal campaign website, he lists legalizing fracking and advocating for offshore oil and gas exploration among lawmakers’ legislative achievements. He is serving his third term in the Senate.
  •  Andy Wells, a Republican representing Alexander and Catawba counties in Western North Carolina, works in real estate. He’s in his second Senate term.

Here are the rest of the committee members, listed by party:


Andrew Brock

Andrew Brock (Davie, Iredell, Rowan). Brock co-sponsored the Regulatory Reform Act of 2016, which contained several anti-environmental sections, including potential restrictions on wind energy facilities. The bill didn’t get out of conference committee.

Brent Jackson

Agribusinessman Brent Jackson (Duplin, Johnston, Sampson) has served on the Environmental Review Commission and oversight committees on natural resources. Most recently, he was the primary sponsor for several bills that would have weakened environmental regulations. He pushed through a law that made it easier for farms to win state grants to help cover the cost of propane or natural gas. Then, as The News & Observer reported, his farm applied for one of the grants, worth $925,000. He said he never intended to actually accept the money.

Tom McInnis (Anson, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly), who co-sponsored the bipartisan Energy Investment Act, and the Farm Act. That bill, which became law, prioritized swine and poultry renewable energy projects over traditional sources, like solar and wind.

John Alexander Jr. (Wake), newcomer Danny Britt Jr. (Columbus and Robeson), Rick Horner (Johnston, Nash, Wilson); Wesley Meredith (Cumberland), first-term lawmaker Paul Newton (Cabarrus, Union),
Ron Rabin (Harnett, Johnston, Lee), Trudy Wade (Guilford), who was the primary sponsor on several bills to dilute environmental regulations.


Angela Bryant


Angela Bryant (Halifax, Nash, Vance, Warren, Wilson). She co-sponsored a bill last session, the Energy Investment Act, that would have given taxpayers who built, bought or leased a renewable energy property a credit equal to 35 percent of the cost of the property. It stalled in the finance committee.

 Jay Chaudhuri (Wake), who is in his first term; Erica Smith-Ingram, whose district includes eight counties in northeastern North Carolina. She co-sponsored a pro-renewable energy bill last session.

Mike Woodard

Mike Woodard (Caswell, Durham, Person), a longtime environmental advocate. He was the primary sponsor on a bill last session that opposed groundwater rules passed by the Mining and Energy Commission. Those rules related to fracking failed to address air quality issues, chemical disclosure requirements or forced pooling, which requires landowners who don’t want to lease their mineral rights to accept drilling anyway.

agriculture, Commentary, Environment

10 environmental fiascos that broke the FUBAR meter this year

Environmental reporting in 2016 was like shooting two-headed fish in a toxic waste barrel: It’s tough to miss. With just three days left in the year, this is an occasion for the airing of environmental grievances. For the sake of time, we had to limit ourselves to 10.


HF Lee Plant, a coal-fired power plant, was demolished by Duke Energy. Its ash is supposed to be excavated. (Photo: Duke Energy)

  1. The saga of coal ash
    Two words North Carolinians would like to never hear again: Coal. Ash.
    The coal ash scandal that began in 2014 helped un-elect Gov. Pat McCrory. Yet while he seeks a new job in the Trump administration, North Carolinians have to live with coal’s dirty legacy: Leaking ash basins, contaminated rivers and water wells, abandoned mines filled with tons of ash, residents living on bottled water, secret conversations between Duke Energy and state officials, environmental permits that don’t fully protect the environment.
    Through litigation, the Southern Environmental Law Center has forced Duke Energy to excavate eight of its 14 coal ash sites in North Carolina. But that leaves six more locations where the ash could be capped in place, posing risks to groundwater and public health.
    And  a draft wastewater discharge permit for the HF Lee plant allows for a capped landfill, even though Lee is on the list of excavation sites. Don’t worry, state regulators and Duke Energy say, that’s old language, a vestige of another draft. A landfill? At Lee? Don’t be silly. Really, believe us.

    State toxicologist Ken Rudo (Photo: Canary Coalition)

  2. The attack on Ken Rudo, the resignation of Megan Davies and the audacity of Thomas Stith
    Someone should write a tragic-comedy about how one summer, top government officials try to sully the reputation of two of the state’s top scientists. But the plan backfires when the open records law is used.
    Act I: In a deposition and under oath, state toxicologist Ken Rudo blows the whistle on the Department of Health and Human Services, DEQ  and Gov. Pat McCrory’s office for downplaying the risks of hexavalent chromium in drinking water wells near Duke Energy coal ash basins.
    Act II: DHHS, DEQ and McCrory’s office go on the offensive. In a late-night press conference, Thomas Stith, McCrory’s chief of staff, accuses Rudo of perjury, a felony. Oops, Stith didn’t actually read Rudo’s deposition before calling him a liar.
    Oops, no one counted on public records showing DHHS communications director Kendra Gerlach’s sworn testimony that language in letters to well owners, which indeed downplayed the health risks, was made at the behest of McCrory’s office.
    The administration’s assault on Rudo’s reputation compelled the resignation of state epidemiologist Megan Davies, who could no longer tolerate the mendacity of DHHS and the McCrory administration.
    Act III: The movie ends when public records show how state officials were trying to squelch the information and control the press, like a game of Whack-a-Mole.
    Stay tuned for the sequel.

    The same hog waste lagoon, before and after the hurricane. (Photo: Rick Dove)

  3. Hurricane Matthew, western drought and climate change
    State officials called these natural disasters acts of God, but in reality, they signal the wrath of climate change. Which makes DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart’s opposition to the Clean Power Plan even more ironic. The state (without the backing of its justice department) is suing the Obama administration over the CPP, which would sharply reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants — a major contributor to climate change. Why? Because — regulation!
    The failure of state environmental leaders to connect the dots between historic (and now commonplace) storms, flooding, droughts and other weather extremes jeopardizes the citizens of North Carolina. People who didn’t live in flood plains now do.  Swine waste lagoons (See No. 4), once thought immune to flooding because of their elevation, are not necessarily so. Unchecked coastal development puts people in harm’s way. Yet, the opposition to stronger regulations is vehement (unless they govern solar panels, see No. 10)
    As for the western wildfires, arsonists started those (and a pox upon their house), but the exceptional drought, a byproduct of climate change, made those felonies possible. As of Dec. 20, 68 of North Carolina’s 100 counties were in a drought status ranging from abnormally dry to extreme.
  4. Gaslighting and swine waste lagoons
    Hurricane Matthew killed 2 million chickens and more than 5,000 hogs, while flooding some hog waste lagoons. State agriculture and environmental officials say no lagoons were breached but when polluted water reaches the rivers — as it did — “breach versus flood” is a matter of semantics.
    That pollution extends not just to the air and water but to farmworkers’ noses. A study of 400 workers’ families found a greater incidence of antibiotic-resistant staph in their noses than nonworkers’ families.
    Behind the scenes, the powers-that-be wielded their influence through gaslighting.
    NC Farm Families, which despite its homespun name, represents a family of large agribusiness, assailed the Waterkeeper Alliance for allegedly trying to shut down the hog industry. Not true, the waterkeepers say, we’re just trying to stem the pollution.
    The NC Environmental Justice Network, the Waterkeeper Alliance and REACH filed a civil rights complaint with the EPA against DEQ for allegedly trying to intimidate residents who live near giant hog farms. DEQ officials allegedly allowed the NC Pork Council to attend a private mediation session with environmental groups, even though those organizations had explicitly said they weren’t invited.

    Jeffrey Warren, State Sen. Phil Berger’s science advisor (Photo: LinkedIn)

  5. The mysterious NC Policy Collaboratory
    This environmental think tank at UNC was funded by a last-minute $1 million appropriation by the  conservative General Assembly. Without any faculty input, UNC didn’t even know the collaboratory was in the works.
    The project was masterminded by Jeffrey Warren, Sen. Phil Berger’s science adviser, who never met an environmental regulation he liked. Its interim director is Brad Ives, who served as assistant DEQ secretary under John “oil is renewable energy” Skvarla.
    Pardon us if we sound skeptical of the collaboratory’s charge to “examine environmental and economic aspects of natural resources management and new technologies for habitat, environmental and water quality improvement.” The group then reports those findings to the General Assembly.
    Learn more about what the think tank is up to at its meeting on Jan. 20.6.  The attempted extinction of red wolves 

    Only 40 to 45 endangered red wolves exist in the wild. (Photo: Wildlife Network)

    There are fewer than 45 endangered red wolves living in eastern North Carolina. But the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Wildlife Resources Commission think there should be even fewer. Only through the actions of a federal judge — at the urging of the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Red Wolf Coalition and Defenders of Wildlife — have the wild wolves been granted clemency.
    What’s not to like about a wolf? An anti-government contingent in eastern NC has argued that the federal government released them illegally, that they’re no longer genetically pure because they’ve interbred with coyotes, that they kill deer, and thus compete with human hunters. (The difference: Most humans can shop at a grocery store.)
    Federal and state wildlife officials are caving in to this political pressure, over the objections of scientists. The federal government wants to send most of the wild wolves to live in captivity in zoos, which is akin to a person being on house arrest for the rest of her life.

    7. DEQ’s and the McCrory administration’s demonization of environmental advocates

    Lobbyists, riverkeepers, environmental groups, the media: Bogeymen and women, all of them, trying to foil the good work of the administration’s higher-ups. At various public events, Gov. McCrory, Agriculture Secretary Steve Troxler and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest all called these advocates “environmental extremists.”
    Meanwhile, DEQ’s PR team was busy crafting press releases with headlines like:
    “State focuses on coal ash clean-up while lobbyist group tries to block progress” wrote DEQ Assistant Secretary Tom Reeder in an October press release.
    In “State officials counter false reports about coal ash” Reeder said, “It’s unfortunate that a political group masquerading as environmentalists is deliberately trying to mislead the public.”
    Public records show that Crystal Feldman, DEQ deputy secretary of public affairs, said “Liberal groups” launched a “coordinated attack” earlier this year on the NC Department of Environmental Quality over coal ash.
    And an in-house video features van der Vaart and Reeder reassuring the public about the coal ash cleanup. We fact-checked the claims.

    In Robeson County, people are protesting against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would run through Lumbee land. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

    8. The perils of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

    One of the underreported stories of 2016 is the proposed 150-plus mile section of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would run parallel to US 301 in eastern North Carolina. Spearheaded by Dominion Energy, the pipeline would begin in West Virginia and carry fracked natural gas through Virginia and North Carolina.
    Aside from the well-documented environmental problems with fracking — earthquakes, drinking water contamination and methane leaks — the NC portion of the ACP would pass through low-income and minority communities, including Lumbee land.
    The pipeline would lower property values — few people want to live near an explosion hazard — and would traverse sensitive environmental areas, such as rivers and wetlands. Did we mention the pipeline would not provide natural gas to North Carolina? Dominion hasn’t, either.

    9. The buzzkill of Solarbees

    The General Assembly and DEQ wasted another $1 million (are lawmakers printing million-dollar bills in the basement of the Legislative Building?) to deploy an army of Solarbees at Jordan Lake. These giant egg-beaters were supposed to stir, aerate, make giant frittatas and improve the water quality in the reservoir, a source of drinking water for 300,000 people in the Triangle.
    However, in an unusual move, DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart invoked scientific evidence to declare the two-year experiment a failure. The Solarbees were dismantled and removed. Meanwhile, the Jordan Lake rules, which would regulate development in the watershed and reduce water pollution, are still on hiatus, seven years after they were passed.

    10. The bashing of solar energy

    While solar bees were initially heralded as the Next Big Thing, solar energy is receiving no such love from conservative policymakers. North Carolina is a national leader in solar capacity, and solar farms are being built throughout the state. (There are 26 proposals in the queue awaiting public comment, according to state records.)
    Nonetheless, members of the state Energy Policy Council and its Clean Energy Subcommittee say they’re alarmed, even downright scared, about the hidden dangers of solar panels. At a recent subcommittee meeting, member Herb Eckerlin, who was appointed to the Council by Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger.  said most of the panels are made in China (true) but that the North Carolina’s solar farm system has no codes and regulations (not true).
    “Citizens are increasingly concerned about their land and groundwater,” Eckerlin, a professor of mechanical engineering at N.C. State University, said with uncommon urgency. “Solar panels are a potential time bomb. This can’t be swept under the rug. Immediate action is required.” Eckerlin was appointed to the Council by Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger. Berger’s scientific adviser, Jeffrey Warren, is the mastermind of much of the anti-environmental legislation.

This panic is unwarranted, reports the UNC School of Government:
“Opponents of solar projects occasionally claim that PV panels, especially the materials within the panels, are unsafe. The actual concern is limited. A typical PV panel is constructed mostly of glass and aluminum. Panel semi-conductors—the components that convert sunlight to electricity—are usually made of crystalline silicon and only account for a small percentage of the panel weight. Silicon is a common element found in sand and used in glass, bricks, and household electronics.

A small amount of lead may be used in the electrical solder in the modules. PV panels using cadmium are more popular in desert climates, and moreover, the cadmium in one module is comparable to that in a C-size rechargeable battery. Regardless of the materials, they are contained in a solid matrix, so they are insoluble and non-volatile under normal conditions. Releases to the ground or air are unlikely. At the end of a PV panel’s useful life, most of the panel may be recycled.”

2017 will begin not only with the legislature’s long session (Jan. 11), but also the Environmental Management Commission
(Jan. 11), DEQ’s Air Quality Committee (Jan. 11), the NC Policy Collaboratory meeting (Jan. 20), the Energy Policy Council (late January).