Commentary

NC gun group is way over the line with latest menacing gesture toward Hillary Clinton

There’s another new and frighteningly horrific development in the world of North Carolina right-wing policy and politics this morning. The following has been posted to the website of the pro-gun group known as Grass Roots North Carolina:

The ‘Hillary Clinton Special’

Grant Gardner, GRNC-PVF Treasurer

Get an AR-15 and elect pro-gun candidates!

We all know that if Hillary Clinton is elected President on November 8, panic buying will ensure that by November 9, there won’t be a gun (or ammunition) available for love nor money. That’s why the GRNC Political Victory Fund – GRNC’s federally registered political action committee – is giving you what might be among the last chances to get…

  • A Palmetto State Armory M4-configured AR-15;
  • 1,000 rounds of high quality ammunition, and (wait for it);
  • A FREE PORTRAIT OF HILLARY CLINTON! (Of course, we won’t tell you what to do with the photo, but when we ran a picture of Hillary on the front of our newsletter, we heard it was very popular at the range.)

Why GRNC-PVF is critically important

GRNC is restricted by law from using organizational funds to oust anti-gun politicians. Instead, direct election action is accomplished by our federal political action committee, the GRNC Political Victory Fund, which makes candidate recommendations and conducts “independent expenditures” for or against candidates via radio spots, mailings and automated phone calls.

Buying raffle tickets means that in addition to getting a chance at an attractively configured carbine (M4 feed ramps, w/16” barrel and mid-length gas tube, 1:7 twist chrome-lined barrel, Keymod handguard to mount the latest accessories), you will help GRNC-PVF keep anti-gunners like Roy Cooper, Deborah Ross and Josh Stein from occupying offices critical to gun rights.

Moreover, tickets are cheap: $10 ea, 3/$25, 7/$50 or 15/$100. Winner takes all and tickets are limited, so act now to get this attractive carbine and 1000 rounds of .223 ammo. (What you do with the picture is between you and Hillary). Get tickets now at:

GRNC.org/grnc-pvf-raffle-2016

In the name of all that is decent in our country, the terribly troubled souls behind this need to take it down immediately and apologize as well. What’s more, Donald Trump, Gov. Pat McCrory, Senator Richard Burr, Sen. Buck Newton and all other conservative politicians who have attempted to make gun ownership an issue in their campaigns should disavow the group ASAP.

Commentary

On Charlotte: Most pols responsible, but NC GOP needs to pipe down

Most North Carolina political leaders of both major parties in North Carolina have been responsibly muted and cautious in their response to the recent events in Charlotte. With the notable exception of the very troubled Congressman Robert Pittenger, who seized the opportunity to make an utterly absurd, racist comment last week, others — including Gov. McCrory, Attorney General Cooper and other major statewide candidates — have taken the high road and eschewed the opportunity to pander and demagogue.

And then there are the Internet magpies at the North Carolina Republican Party. On multiple occasions, GOP staffers have issued statements on Twitter that are way over the line. Throughout the last few days, party boss Dallas Woodhouse and his colleague Ricky Diaz have been spewing hateful tweets and incorrect information, offering an almost constant critique of of disfavored officials and spreading rumors of the kind one would expect from some basement dwelling Internet troll.

At times, it seemed last week that scarcely an hour went by in which Woodhouse and/or Diaz weren’t calling people names, attacking Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts in derogatory terms (Woodhouse called her “a disgrace of a mayor”) or attempting to incite anger and outrage.

If your stomach can take it, you can check out Woodhouse’s tweets here and Diaz’ here.

The bottom line: Let’s hope that in the new week, the GOP staffers take a chill pill, find some inner calm and decency and pipe down. And if they don’t, let’s hope Gov. McCrory — the man who is, in effect, their boss — tells them to shut up.

 

Environment

NC DEQ shaves Duke Energy’s $6.8 million fine; utility will pay less — again

million-dollar-bill

This post has been corrected to reflect the fine only regarding the Dan River spill, not the $25 million assessed to Duke for the Sutton facility and the groundwater contamination across the state.

The Friday surprise out of the NC Department of Environmental Quality is that it has reduced the fine against Duke Energy related to the February 2014 coal ash spill in Eden.

In February, state regulators fined the utility $6.8 million for the spill at Dan River. Duke Energy challenged the fine.  The $6 million settlement prevents the state from incurring additional legal costs associated with lengthy litigation and allows the state to focus all its resources on permanently closing coal ash ponds.

From WFAE:

In a statement, DEQ said: “The $6 million settlement prevents the state from incurring additional legal costs associated with lengthy litigation and allows the state to focus all its resources on permanently closing coal ash ponds.”

From the DEQ press release:

“This is yet another example of the McCrory administration’s commitment to environmental protection,” said Secretary Donald van der Vaart. “Unlike previous administrations, we will take enforcement actions against anyone that does not comply with the law so that we can prevent future environmental catastrophes.”

However, for environmental advocates, state toxicologists and people who live near the coal ash ponds, this is yet another example of the tail — Duke Energy — wagging the dog — DEQ. They have repeatedly criticized and in some cases, sued, DEQ for its leniency toward the utility, the former employer of Gov. Pat McCrory.

Contamination is still leaking into waterways. Just last week, third-party testing paid for by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which is suing Duke, showed high levels of arsenic in the Yadkin River near the Buck Plant in Salisbury.

Under the Coal Ash Management Act, Duke Energy is required to provide permanent alternative water supplies to residents around coal ash facilities by the fall of 2018. The utility must also excavate and close the Dan River facility’s coal ash ponds by Aug. 1, 2019.  All Duke coal ash ponds must be closed by 2029.

 

Environment

EPA names 173 companies in $5.5 million settlement over PCB contamination in Wake County

ward-transformer-path-of-contaminationFor more than 10 years, it has been forbidden to eat a single fish from Brier Creek Reservoir in Wake County. Areas downstream, such as Brier Creek and Little Brier Creek, were also off-limits. That prohibition extended for nearly 30 miles southwest, to Crabtree Creek, Lake Crabtree, on down into parts of the Neuse River where, state officials advised, people shouldn’t eat more than one meal of fish per month.

The reason: PCBs and dioxins, cancer-causing compounds, were in oil that had leaked from Ward Transformer Company, which manufactured, rehabbed and sold electrical transformers from 1964 to 2006. From 11 acres just north of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Ward’s pollution drained into the soil and water, including tributaries that fed some of the most popular waterways in the state. Fish became contaminated, although people, some of whom rely on fishing for their, still eat them.

PCBs were widely used a coolant fluid in electrical equipment from 1929 to 1977. Their manufacture was banned in 1979, but weren’t completely phased out in industry until the early 1980s. Dioxins are formed when PCBs burn.

On Friday, the EPA announced it has reached a $5.5 million settlement with 173 companies throughout the U.S. that contributed to the contamination. They include major corporations such as Union Carbide and US Steel; utilities from San Antonio to Philadelphia to New York and South Carolina; and North Carolina state government like the Department of Agriculture, UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University. At some point, each of the 173 sent electrical transformers to Ward.

The settlement is the latest chapter in a cumbersome, expensive and decades-long history at Ward Transformer. It shows the bureaucratic hurdles and delays that beset the Superfund program.

Shortly before the EPA banned the manufacture of PCBs, in 1978 state and federal regulators first discovered suspicious samples in soil and the stormwater lagoon on Ward property, plus more contamination downstream. (Ward Transformer also became famous that year when two men in a tanker truck sprayed an estimated 30,000 gallons of PCB-laced oil along rural roadsides in 14 counties, The News & Observer reported. Buck Ward, the company president and one of four men convicted in the dumping, served nine months in federal prison in 1982.

From 1994 to 1997, the state found more contamination, which had spread to nearby properties.In 2003, Ward Transformer became a federal Superfund site, and in 2004 the EPA deemed the contamination so dangerous as to warrant a “time-critical removal action,” which was supposed to happen in three to six months.

Yet not until 2007 did excavation begin of 400,000 cubic yards of dirt. — enough to fill 100 train cars.

Another decade and $82 million in, the 173 potentially responsible parties will be required to pay for the cleanup plan that was chosen in September 2008. That includes excavating PCB-contaminated soil and sediment and monitoring of sediment and aquatic life to ensure cleanup goals are being met.

When will it be safe to eat the fish again? In Brier Creek Reservoir, it will take at least another five years.

Commentary, News

This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

Taxcreditsupplies10-13-151. The cuts keep coming: More damning data on the state of NC public school funding

A recent lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer editorial “NC GOP leaders ignore recession cuts when touting funding increases” makes several good points concerning the state’s declining commitment to funding public schools. As the editorial mentions, legislative leaders’ claims that they have increased spending on public schools are “at once true and deceptive” since they compare today’s spending to the temporary budget reductions implemented in the throes of a historically bad recession.

A deeper look at the data, however, shows the decline in support for public schools is even greater than indicated by the editorial. Along nearly every measure, North Carolina’s public schools have fewer resources today even when compared to the last budget passed under a Democratic-controlled General Assembly. While it is true that the nominal budget for public schools has increased slightly from its nadir in FY 2010-11, North Carolina’s public schools themselves have not benefited from higher resource levels since the change in General Assembly majority. [Continue reading...]


Medicaid gap2. Census data a powerful reminder of the need to expand Medicaid

The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau included some frustrating information about North Carolina and it wasn’t just the state’s sluggish below the national average growth in household median income that the think tanks on the right have mistakenly trumpeted as good news.

The data also showed that the percentage of people without health coverage in the state dropped by 1.9 percent from 2014 to 2015. That means 173,000 people are no longer uninsured thanks to the improving national economy and the Affordable Care Act.

But North Carolina’s uninsured rate is still more than two percent above the national average—and it’s not hard to figure out why. That is the frustrating part. [Continue reading…]

ncfarmfamilies-13. The political machine behind the conflict between NC Farm Families and the Waterkeeper Alliance

A hard rain drips down the window of a farmhouse. A farmer stares at the dreary day and takes another sip of coffee from his cup.

“Struggle,” one of several ads produced by NC Farm Families is narrated by a young woman extolling the virtues of family farming. Her family’s farm, near Mt. Olive, she says, is a century old. “A farmer works six days a week because farming gets in his blood,” she says, with a touch of solemnity in her voice, “then goes to church to give thanks.”

The woman in the ad is Marisa Linton, director of engagement for NC Farm Families, a front group for the hog industry. Linton did grow up on a small farm, raising goats, sheep, turkeys, horses and pigs to show at fairs and contests. But the ad’s depiction of a humble family farm hardly represents the true picture of the state’s hog industry — or the powerful and politically connected NC Farm Families. [Continue reading]

Bonus read: EPA Office of Civil Rights investigating intimidation claims against DEQ


wb-incomegrowth4. The Right pushes another whopper about the NC economy
Why recent conservative claims about state income growth are flat out wrong

It’s understandable (and perhaps even a little poignant) that some on the right have been trying so hard of late to put a positive spin on the state of the North Carolina economy. If there’s even the tiniest snippet of encouraging economic news out there these days – anywhere – you can rest assured that conservative politicians and “think tankers” will seize upon it, gather round it and hold it aloft like ancient cavepeople celebrating the discovery of a shiny ingot.

Never mind what our eyes and ears tells us when we open them and examine the communities not fortunate enough to be located in prosperous pockets of the Raleigh-to-Charlotte corridor. Never mind the grinding and shockingly persistent poverty that affects millions – especially children. Never mind that the positive economic trends that are out there (and there are certainly some) are almost all in line with the national economic recovery. [Continue reading…]

hb2-divide5. Contentious, costly HB2 underscores North Carolina’s urban and rural divide

Since its passage in March, the struggle over House Bill 2 has underlined an already apparent divide between urban and rural North Carolina.

The law began as a struggle between the conservative majority in the North Carolina legislature and the Charlotte city council, which moved to provide broad anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

But with last week’s announcement that the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Atlantic Coast Conference will pull college championship games from the state over the law, political experts and new polls suggest the tide of political opinion is decisively turning against the measure. [Continue reading…]

***Bonus Infographic: When it comes to 2016 “bathroom bill” state legislation, North Carolina stands alone in restricting transgender access

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