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Duke EnergyAs the General Assembly debates a coal ash bill that many say lets Duke Energy off the hook, the Supreme Court today approved a rate hike for Duke Energy customers.

Justice Barbara Jackson wrote the opinion for the unanimous court, holding this:

In this case we consider whether the order of the North Carolina Utilities Commission authorizing a 10.2% return on equity for Duke Energy Progress contained sufficient findings of fact to demonstrate that it was supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence in view of the entire record. Because we conclude that the Commission made sufficient findings of fact regarding the impact of changing economic conditions upon customers, we affirm.

Read the court’s full opinion here.

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Supreme CourtGov. Pat McCrory announced today that he’ll appoint current Court of Appeals Judge R.N. “Bob” Hunter, Jr. to fill Justice Mark Martin’s seat on the Supreme Court. Martin will take Chief Justice Sarah Parker’s spot on Sept. 1,  following her retirement.

Hunter, who has served on the Court of Appeals since 2008, will take his seat on the Supreme Court on Sept. 6.

Here’s an excerpt from the Governor’s statement:

As a lawyer who practiced for 35 years and as a current judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, Judge Hunter has the experience and integrity needed to serve on North Carolina’s Supreme Court .I am confident that Judge Hunter will continue to serve our state to the best of his legal abilities and with the highest of ethical standards.

Both Martin and Hunter will be running in November to retain those seats.

Martin is facing off against Brunswick County Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis, and Hunter is running against his colleague on the Court of Appeals, Sam Ervin IV.

 

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Bloomberg News published a fascinating story yesterday (“Obamacare Losing Power as Campaign Weapon in Ad Battles”) about the gradual, but steady demise of the Affordable Care Act as a campaign issue for conservatives in the 2014 election. In illustrating the altered political landscape, the story features a North Carolina woman whose views have been changed dramatically.

“Republicans seeking to unseat the U.S. Senate incumbent in North Carolina have cut in half the portion of their top issue ads citing Obamacare, a sign that the party’s favorite attack against Democrats is losing its punch.

The shift — also taking place in competitive states such as Arkansas and Louisiana — shows Republicans are easing off their strategy of criticizing Democrats over the Affordable Care Act now that many Americans are benefiting from the law and the measure is unlikely to be repealed.

“The Republican Party is realizing you can’t really hang your hat on it,” said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University. “It just isn’t the kind of issue it was.”

The party had been counting on anti-Obamacare sentiment to spur Republican turnout in its quest for a U.S. Senate majority, just as the issue did when the party took the House in 2010. This election is the first since the law was fully implemented.

Now, Republicans are seeking a new winning formula, with the midterm election less than three months away.”

The story continues with the powerful example of a 44 year-old former Romney supporter from Raleigh: Read More

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Coal ashPeople who know the score are not displaying a lot of enthusiasm about the coal ash bill that will be run through he House Rules Committee this morning. As the website Coal Ash Chronicles noted yesterday:

“[C]losing” a coal ash pond and “cleaning up” a coal ash pond or spill … those are totally different things. The first option leaves coal ash where it is alongside the state’s waterways — which flow into your house and businesses — and the second moves the coal ash away from the water to either be landfilled or repurposed.”

The experts at the Southern Environmental Law Center issued this statement early last evening on behalf of an array of concerned environmental advocates:

S729 Fails to Protect People from Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Pollution

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— The coal ash bill issued by a conference committee of the N.C. General Assembly today fails to require cleanup of 10 coal ash sites across North Carolina by allowing Duke Energy to leave its polluting coal ash in unlined, leaking pits at 10 of 14 sites. The bill leaves at risk people in nearby and downstream communities throughout North Carolina and other states. The bill seeks to weaken existing law and protect Duke Energy from taking responsibility for its coal ash waste.

Allowing coal ash to be left in unlined, leaking pits across North Carolina with documented groundwater contamination at each site is not a cleanup plan nor does it protect the people of North Carolina. Many sites across the country where coal ash has been covered up or “capped” in place continue to experience high levels of toxic pollution. Covering up coal ash and calling sites “closed” does not stop or clean up pollution. Read More

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House members rejected on Tuesday a multi-part bill to expand job incentives, while capping Wake County’s ability to raise local sales taxes. While House Speaker Thom Tillis and Governor Pat McCrory favored House Bill 1224, a bipartisan group of House members defeated the contentious measure.

State senators had tied the passage of HB 1224 to a separate deal, which would have helped
counties fund teaching assistant positions this fall.

Rep. Darren Jackson (Wake-D) argued the TA budget fix should be in a separate bill, not dependent on passage of the incentives bill.

Rep. Nelson Dollar (Wake-R) joined Jackson in arguing against the bill GOP leadership favored. Dollar said a $20 million Job Catalyst fund to be administered solely by the Commerce Secretary lacked accountability and was unlikely to help rural, low-wealth counties.

In the end, HB 1224 failed on a 47-54 vote.

Today, the House returns with an 11:00 a.m. session where they are expected to vote on an 11th hour  coal ash compromise, which emerged late Tuesday. That bill is expected to be the final piece of legislation House members tackle before adjournment.

To hear a portion of Tuesday’s debate, click below. For more on the fate of the teacher assistant funding fix, read Lindsay Wagner’s story on our main N.C. Policy Watch site:

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