On the final day of the “short session” both the House and Senate gave approval to a compromise plan that sets the wheels in motion to begin cleaning-up North Carolina’s 33 unlined coal ash pits.

Approval of the Coal Ash Management Act came 200 days after a major spill at a former Duke Energy power plant that dumped 40,000 tons of toxic sludge into the Dan River.

During Wednesday’s House debate, Rep. Nathan Baskerville argued the compromise plan did not go far enough. The Vance County Democrat noted that the Supreme Court sided with Duke Energy in its latest rate hike case, and that lawmakers should spell out that this clean-up would not end up costing consumers more.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, one of the key negotiators on the bill, reminded his colleagues this was just the first step:

“This is Coal Ash One. There’s going to be a Coal Ash Two,” explained the Henderson County Republican. “We’ve gotta get going, and this bill gets us going.”

Rep. Rick Glazier, who also worked on the compromise language, said the end product – while not perfect – was far stronger than House or Senate versions of the bill previously passed.

“The bill mandates all facilities be designated as high, intermediate or low risk and that all high risk ponds be sealed and closed in 5 years, intermediate in 10, and low risk in 15 years, with a critical new provision that assures no low risk facility may be simply capped in place if the coal ash residuals interact in any substantial manner with subsurface water,” wrote Glazier in a press release.

Senate Bill 729 passed the House 84-13, and won Senate approval 38-2. The bill now heads to Governor McCrory’s desk.

To hear some of the coal ash debate on the House floor, click below.

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fergusonA North Carolina teacher has started a crowd sourcing effort to raise money for food banks in the St. Louis area, after schools in Ferguson, Missouri closed as a result of the unrest following the shooting death of unarmed teenager Mike Brown by a police officer.

Julianna Mendelsohn, who teaches at a school in Bahama in Durham County, started the cause #FeedFerguson Aug. 14 on the fundraising website Fundly, and more than $130,000 had been raised as of midday Wednesday.

She was concerned about children attending Ferguson schools who depend on the school’s free and reduced meals to eat.

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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.


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.



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