agriculture, Environment, Legislature

Neonic pesticides shorten bees’ lives in newly discovered way — with consequences for our drinking water

These public water systems have granular activated charcoal systems that can filter neonic pesticides from drinking water. (Map courtesy ToxicFree NC, using NC DEQ data)

A new study confirms that honeybees exposed to neonic pesticides, long implicated in their illness and death, send them to an early grave– putting the health of entire hive at risk.

Canadian researchers used “field realistic” exposure levels to study the bees’ health. Skeptics of neonics’ toxicity — the very companies that manufacture the chemicals — often complained that previous studies exposed bees’ to unusually high levels of the pesticide. The “field realistic” study, however, likewise showed neonics, as bees might encounter them in the wild, harm the insects’ health.

Even more surprising, though, is a finding which has implications for human health.

First, the bees in the Canadian study appear to have ingested neonics in a roundabout way: During irrigation or rain, neonic pesticides run off the corn and soybean fields in the water. Other plants in adjacent fields then take up that water as they grow, and honeybees ingest the pesticide via their pollen.

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

This same mechanism likely means that neonics are entering the drinking water supply via fields runoff. Unfortunately, state environmental regulators don’t test for the pesticide in surface, ground or drinking water. Last year, the NC Department of Environmental Quality told the state pesticide board that because of a lack of funding and equipment, it does not monitor for neonics in waterways, including drinking water supplies.

Conventional methods used at water treatment plants don’t remove the neonics, according to a University of Iowa study. Granular activated charcoal systems do appear to remove the pesticide.

Preston Peck of Toxic Free NC, a nonprofit based in Raleigh, used DEQ data to create a map of public water supplies in the state that use granular activated charcoal systems. Some, but not all of North Carolina’s major cities have these systems: Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham, Charlotte and Fayetteville, for example. However Winston-Salem does not; nor do most of the smaller towns and cities.

Peck has repeatedly petitioned the state pesticide board to restrict the use of neonics to only licensed applicators. Despite a half dozen or more presentations from scientists over many months, the board failed to enact a rule to do so.

Peck took his concerns to the legislature. Earlier in the session, Democrat Reps. Pricey Harrison and Grier Martin, and Republican Reps. Chuck McGrady and Mitchell Setzer co-sponsored House Bill 363, which would have accomplished what the pesticide board failed to do. The bill stalled in the House Rules Committee.

Environment, Governor Roy Cooper, Legislature

Hold your sprayers: Gov. Cooper puts the kibosh on leachate bill

Leachate won’t start spewing garbage juice for at least another month now that Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed House Bill 576. The measure would require state environmental officials to permit an untested technology that sprays leachate from landfills into the air. The theory is the larger, harmful contaminated particles will drop to the surface of the landfill, leaving smaller particles to float away. However, scientific studies on other types of waste sprays show that viruses, bacteria and other small contaminants can travel for miles, depending on the wind, topography and humidity.

“Scientists, not the legislature, should decide whether a patented technology can safely dispose of contaminated liquids from landfills,” Cooper wrote in his veto message. “With use of the word ‘shall,’ the legislature mandates a technology winner, limiting future advancements that may provide better protection.”

Sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Dixon of Duplin County, the bill was controversial from the get-go. Environmental advocates and many Democrats opposed the bill because of safety concerns. Dixon repeatedly said the technology was safe, but offered no pertinent data or proof.

The leachate spraying system was invented by Kelly Houston of Cornelius. Last year, he contributed $5,000 to the campaign of Trudy Wade when the bill language was being inserted into an omnibus measure. That provision failed in the waning days of the 2016 short session.

This year, Wade carried water for the bill on the Senate side, which passed it 29-14. The House also passed it 75-45. Lawmakers could vote on an override, which requires a three-fifths majority, when the first special session convenes Aug. 3.

Environment, Legislature

Wind energy sent to time-out for 18 months, HB 589 heads to Gov. Cooper’s desk

A view from the ground of a wind turbine (Photo: Creative Commons, Saintfevrier at Greek Wikipedia)

A t 1 o’clock this morning, the winds in Raleigh were blowing from the southwest at 10 miles per hour, a gentle breeze nonetheless strong enough to move the blades of a wind turbine.

Inside the building, though, a storm brewed over House Bill 589. Earlier in the week, Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican from Onslow County, abruptly tacked on a four-year wind energy moratorium to a hard-fought consensus bill that would encourage more solar power in the state.

On Wednesday, the House refused to concur with the amendment. By Thursday, the House and Senate leadership had appointed a conference committee, charging it with breaking the impasse.

On Friday, the committee finally emerged with a compromise. The moratorium on new wind energy permits — or expansions of the sole existing one — would be shortened from four years to 18 months. As in the original amendment, the moratorium would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017.

At 1:26 a.m., the Senate voted 36-4 to approve the bill. Sixteen minutes later, the House did the same, 66-41.

Solar energy would live to see another day. The future of wind energy, though, would be suspended.

As the bill heads to the governor’s desk, the 104-turbine Amazon Wind Farm, already generating electricity in eastern North Carolina, will be largely unaffected by the moratorium. Iberdolas, the Spanish firm that owns the project, can’t expand to 150 turbines, as planned. But the farm can continue to operate.

However, in the early stages of federal permitting, the Timbermill, owned by Apex Clean Energy, and the Alligator River wind farms can’t apply for any state permits. Although they could continue engineering and design studies, there is still the risk that future legislation could extend the moratorium. Timbermill, which planned for 105 turbines on 15,000 acres, has already been dealt setbacks in Perquimans County, where the commissioners denied the company’s permit request to build 57 of them.

The legislation also appropriates $150,000 to hire a company through the standard bidding process to draw maps showing areas of potential conflict between wind farms and military training exercises. (One could jest that given the legislature’s history with maps, there could be unease about the results.)

The shortened moratorium is an acquiescence to to Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, a Democrat from Northampton County whose district includes prime real estate for wind farms. During the original Senate floor debate, she argued that the four-year moratorium jeopardized a $1 billion investment in one of the poorest areas of the state. Any moratorium should be no more than two years, she said. She got 18 months.

Environment, Legislature

Windbreaker John Droz pleaded with GOP senators to kill H589; Senate to hear bill today

Sen. Harry Brown’s proposal to kill wind energy could also kill solar. (Photo: NC General Assembly)

Sometime after 4 o’clock today when the Senate convenes, House Bill 589, the clean energy legislation, will know its fate. Solar will live, but wind will die. Solar and wind will both die. Solar and wind will both live. The latter is unlikely.

The good vibes of the bill — which only two days ago was all but assured a smooth passage to spurring more solar energy in the state — was eclipsed by a last-minute maneuver by wind energy opponent Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown. Yesterday in the Senate Rules Committee, Brown announced he had tacked on a four-year moratorium on wind farms to the measure.

Brown’s move played into the hands of John Droz, a climate change denier and vociferous and indefatigable opponent of solar and wind energy, who had been urging Republican lawmakers to oppose the measure.

Droz is a real estate developer who claims to be a physicist because he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1968. An email obtained by NCPW shows that on June 9, Droz sent an 1,100-word missive to GOP senators, calling HB 589 “a black eye to our state.”  (Droz has a standard policy not to speak to NCPW until we stop calling him a real estate developer.)

Although House Bill 589 has its shortcomings, overall, it contains provisions that could further spur the explosive growth of solar energy in North Carolina. Not only would that moratorium stall two projects currently underway, but it would undermine the herculean efforts of stakeholders, including Duke Energy and clean energy groups, which had negotiated the bill language for nearly a year.

In the email, Droz claims to have been a member of the stakeholder group. According to one major stakeholder group, Droz’s name was on the email distribution list. However, no one could remember seeing him physically attend any of the stakeholder meetings.

Climate change denier John Droz cites conservative websites Civitas and the Daily Haymaker to prop up his opposition to HB 589. (Photo: masterresource.org)

As NCPW reported in February, Droz previously supplied talking points to Republican lawmakers, who used them to send a letter to the federal government to close the Amazon Wind Farm near Elizabeth City. At least two of the citations came from Breitbart News, the fake journalism site. And among the lawmakers who signed the letter was Sen. Harry Brown.

Here are some excerpts. The emphasis is in the original document.

If you knew nothing else about H589 other than it was written/supported by: The Southern Environmental Law Center, the Sierra Club, NC Sustainability Energy Association, the Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, etc. — would you think that it was a bill that benefitted consumers, small businesses and the military, or the entrenched solar industry?

The bottom line here is that well-paid professional lobbyists have successfully snookered some conscientious legislators by playing a game of three-card-monte on them. These lobbyists are taking advantage of Republican legislators who never read this 20 page bill, and who have little understanding of the technical issues involved. Instead these legislators accepted superficial soundbites foisted on them by skilled marketers.

 

Here is the full email:

 

John Droz Email by LisaSorg on Scribd

Environment, Legislature

“The military isn’t here today to defend itself”: At last minute, four-year moratorium on wind energy emerges in House Bill 589

H ouse Bill 589, a piece of complex renewable energy legislation, was supposed to epitomize the spirit of cooperation. As the bill was unveiled on April 5, lawmakers heralded a nearly year-long process in which representatives from the utilities and clean energy industries hammered out a measure that, while imperfect, they could nonetheless agree on.

But that collaboration, in both spirit and letter, was upended today in the Senate Rules Committee, when a four-year moratorium on wind energy abruptly appeared in the fourth edition of the bill.

Over the next four years, the legislature would hire the Matrix company to draw maps showing where potential interference between 600-foot wind turbines and military training exercises could occur.

Sen. Harry Brown, who’s responsible for the anti-wind provision, called lawmakers’ failure to “protect the military” and its economic value to eastern North Carolina “the biggest injustice the legislature has ever done.”

Brown has repeatedly cited the turbines’ potential interference with the military as a reason to stop wind energy development. He tried to smother wind energy during the last session, but was foiled by disagreements in a conference committee. This time, though, the Onslow County Republican used a complex bill  — with perks for nearly every interested party — as a vehicle for his anti-wind obsession.

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“This bill is the product of delicate negotiations by a lot of stakeholders,” said Sen. Floyd McKissick, Jr. The Durham County Democrat opposed the bill because of the anti-wind provision. “Why do we need to put the moratorium in this bill? Why not deal with it independently?”

“This is the perfect bill for it,” Brown replied.

Perfect, because the other ironclad and hard-fought provisions in the bill make it hard to oppose.

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