News

mccroryThere’s a hard-hitting report out today from the Center for Public Integrity peeling back the layers behind the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group of primarily Republican governors pushing to allow off-shore drilling in Atlantic waters.

The coalition is chaired by Gov. Pat McCrory, and the Center for Public Integrity report (also published in Time magazine) details how a private firmed backed by oil and energy industry representatives are providing research and information to the group of governors. (Click here to read the entire article.)

From the report:

While the message from the governors that morning [a February meeting with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell] would have come as no surprise to Jewell, less clear, perhaps, was that the governors were drawing on the research and resources of an energy lobbying firm acting on behalf of an oil industry-funded advocacy group.

Indeed, the background materials handed to the governors for the meeting, right down to those specific “asks,” were provided by Natalie Joubert, vice president for policy at the Houston- and Washington D.C.-based HBW Resources. Joubert helps manage the Consumer Energy Alliance, or CEA, a broad-based industry coalition that HBW Resources has been hired to run. The appeal for regulatory certainty, for example, came with a note to the governors that Shell, a CEA member, “felt some of the rules of exploration changed” after it began drilling operations in the Arctic.

McCrory, a former Duke Energy executive, does not come off looking very good, with a mention of his spokesman contacting the private industry-backed firm to ask how to answer a reporter’s questions about the group led by McCrory.

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NC Budget and Tax Center

As I wrote about last week, it is increasingly urgent that emphasis be put on facts as the foundation of policymaking. And there are some great data tools out there to support identification of the issues facing North Carolina’s communities and the most effective solutions.

One such tool is the USDA Food Atlas which provides local data on various measures of food access, security and production. Food insecurity is increasingly considered in this season where so many will focus on preparing holiday meals and too many will continue to struggle to put food on the table.

The Food Atlas provides a comprehensive look at the various dimensions that contribute to food insecurity and nutrition from the location of grocery stores to fast food restaurants to the production of food and access to fresh, local produce.

Here are a few to ponder as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday. Read More

Commentary

Some good news today for renewable energy and global warming!  A new study shows that the cost of utility-scale solar energy is as low at 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour in comparison to natural gas at 6.1 cents and coal at 6.6 cents.  The investment banking firm Lazard, who conducted the study, highlights that even without subsidies solar is coming in at 7.2 cents and wind at 3.7 cents.  You can read the New York Times story about the report here.

Solarize Charlotte Project. by Jack Miczek, Greenpeace.

Solarize Charlotte Project. by Jack Miczek, Greenpeace.

For North Carolina we’ve already seen our national ranking as #4 in solar growth and wind energy opportunities abound, especially off-shore.  As renewables become more competitive and create new economy jobs, will our state continue to advance renewable energy and do our part to combat global warming?  Will we put ratepayers first? Or will we continue down a fossil fuel path of fracking and off-shore oil drilling?

 

 

 

Commentary

There’s still a long way to go in transforming our criminal justice system into what it needs to be. Indeed, the lead editorial in Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer reminded us that the ongoing assault on North Carolina’s court system by the General Assembly and Governor McCrory is as absurd as it is counterproductive and shortsighted.

And yet, despite the ridiculous budget cuts that have resulted in all kinds of destructive service reductions, there is some promising news on the criminal justice front.  Today’s lead editorial in the News & Observer explains:

In 2011, North Carolina’s prison population was growing. The probation system was failing because of lax supervision caused by understaffing. A majority of prison admissions were because of revoked probations. Treatment programs to help inmates addicted to drugs and suffering other behavioral problems were sparse. Prisons were always under construction to keep up with growing inmate populations.

Then Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and Republican lawmakers agreed to address the issues through the Justice Reinvestment Act. Now, the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments reports that the state is doing better than its expectations, the Associated Press reported.

Simply put. the state chilled out — at least a little — on the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” approach to criminal sentencing and put at least a few more resources into post-release supervision and services in an effort to cut down on recidivism. There is  real reason to believe that such an approach will both produce better results for society and save money.

Not surprisingly, state efforts in this area are far from perfect and continue to be hamstrung by pandering politicians bent on showing how macho they are when it comes to crime. Many additional changes and services are needed. That said, as this morning’s editorial notes, the reports thus far on the Justice Reinvestment Act (click here for a thorough explanation from the good folks at the Carolina Justice Policy Center) make clear that the model shows real promise and deserves lots more effort and attention.

Let’s hope the humane, cost-effective and bipartisan reforms keep on coming.