News

North Carolina’s two U.S. Senators have introduced an amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill intended to fast-track the exploration and drilling for natural gas and oil along the Atlantic coast.

Senator Thom Tillis took to the Senate floor Thursday to explain the provision that he says will create thousands of jobs over the next two decades. Click below to hear Tillis’ remarks as carried by C-SPAN:

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Late in the day, Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement praising the forward progress on offshore energy exploration:

“I’d like to thank Senators Burr and Tillis for taking a step in the right direction to help get North Carolina into the energy business. Responsibly exploring oil and gas reserves off our coast has the potential to make North Carolina a leader in energy, move America closer to energy independence, and create jobs.”

McCrory chairs the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition.

News

Gov. Pat McCrory was on hand Thursday for a ribbon cutting for the state’s newly privatized economic development group, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

The group, funded primarily with more than $16 million in public dollars and $500,000 in private dollars serves as the state’s “marketing and sales” with the task of luring both visitors and companies to the state.

“Now is no time to rest on our laurels,” McCrory said Thursday, saying the state needed to continue a push to bring in new jobs and businesses to the state.

Setting up the public-private partnership was a big piece of the economic agenda McCrory set when he took office two years ago. The privatized set-up has shown mixed results in other states that have adopted the models, and critics point to scandals and accusations of harboring a pay-to-play culture that have emerged in other states like Ohio and Indiana.

McCroryecondevOn Thursday, McCrory told the small crowd that taking those functions out of state government allowed his administration to be more “nimble and quick” in economic development work.

Joining McCrory at the ribbon cutting was Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, McCrory’s new Commerce Secretary, John Skvarla and Christopher Chung, the recently hired CEO of the public-private partnership.

Chung, the new CEO of the economic development group who began his work in North Carolina earlier this month.

Chung came to the state from Missouri, where he helped start up and lead that state’s public-private economic development partnership in 2007. He replaces Richard “Dick” Lindenmuth, a businessman who had been hired a year earlier by McCrory and will remain working for the partnership on a contract basis.

McCrory said his staff is working with Republican legislative leaders in crafting a new proposal dubbed N.C. Compete, though McCrory declined to offer any specifics about the policy plan.

The board of the Economic Development Partnership will also meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the group’s headquarters, 15000 Weston Parkway in Cary.

Commentary

There’s a simple reason that the Pope-Civitas Institute (an organization that was founded by one of the state’s richest and most powerful men and named after his father) still struggles to be taken seriously in the North Carolina policy debate after years of effort, even in the current hard right political environment — namely, the low quality of the content it regularly produces.

New confirmation of this fact is on full display today in the group’s latest below-the-belt attack on the President of the North Carolina NAACP, Rev. William Barber.

Of course, scurrilous Civitas attacks on Barber are nothing especially new. Every few months, it seems, the group finds some out-of-date and unflattering photo of Barber to marry with some laughable implication that Barber is somehow enriching himself with public funds. Remember the downright offensive “Money Monday” baloney from a couple of years back? As we explained at the time:

“…it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the utter disconnection from reality that these libelous attacks bespeak.

On the one hand, they are just so downright (and comically) crude and ham-fisted that you almost have to cringe in embarrassment for the Pope-Civitas people. Seriously, the notion that giant organizations with proud histories like the NAACP, AARP and the YWCA are protesting the myriad regressive actions of the 2013 General Assembly because some branch happens to administer a few thousand dollars in public funds is just so patently absurd that it’s hard to believe that a supposedly serious group – a group nervy enough to describe itself as “North Carolina’s Conservative Voice” – would stoop to allege it.

Similarly, to imply that Rev. William Barber – a courageous man who works night and day at enormous personal sacrifice, physical pain and even personal risk; a man who directs a tiny paid staff and who has, for years, tirelessly traveled the length and breadth if the state in an old minivan to help countless underdog causes – is doing what he is doing in order to advance his own personal financial agenda, is just so utterly wrong and, for lack of a better word, malicious that it must render any fair-minded observer virtually speechless.”

Now, Pope-Civitas is at it again — trying to manufacture a controversy out of whole cloth over the fact that Barber serves as the unpaid chair of the the board of a Goldsboro nonprofit that receives Department of Public Instruction funds (via a competitive grant process) to help serve low and moderate income families (irrespective of their religious beliefs) and promote community economic development.

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Commentary

windJust in from the good people the N.C. Chapter of the Sierra Club:

North Carolina Moves One Step Closer to Offshore Wind Development

RALEIGH – Earlier today, the US Department of the Interior announced that it has released an Environmental Assessment that supports the potential lease sale for more than 300,000 acres off the coast of North Carolina for wind energy development.

The possibility of offshore wind development for the state intensified after a study by UNC Chapel Hill researchers found that potential wind resources off our coast were the largest on the Atlantic seaboard. A report by Governor Perdue’s Scientific Advisory Panel on Offshore Energy came to a similar conclusion in 2011.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will accept public comment for 30 days starting on January 31, and will host three public meetings in coastal communities during that time.

After the announcement, Zak Keith, lead organizer for the NC Sierra Club issued the following statement:

It’s clear that offshore wind is a better option than drilling off our coast. Read More

Commentary

President Obama 4President Obama’s popularity numbers have soared recently and it ought not to be a surprise. Despite being held back for years by the stubborn refusal of conservatives to fund an adequate stimulus effort and being far short of where it ought to be, the national economic recovery continues to advance. Better times generally produce better numbers for the President.

Here’s the other obvious factor in the President’s rising popularity with voters: he’s stopped trying to play nice with the forces of reaction. Instead of sticking to his doomed efforts to find common ground with the forces on the Right who would never agree to anything, he’s started taking the bull by the horns and giving voice to the kinds of positions that the people who elected him have long hoped for: a direct confrontation of greed and inequality, assertive immigration reform, a foreign policy that eschews serving as the world’s self-appointed police force and a renewed commitment to combating climate change.

Even for folks who may disagree with the President on some issues, his decisiveness and principled, strong leadership on these and other issues are clearly what people want and expect from him. Let’s hope the President is buoyed and emboldened by the positive public reaction to this new, more assertive leadership style and that it becomes one of the defining features of the final two years of his presidency.