Supreme Court expert: It’s as if NC lawmakers “were trying to get caught” on voting rights

Ian Millhiser, the extremely knowledgeable Supreme Court observer/analyst at the Center for American Progress, has some advice for the lawyers representing Gov. Pat McCrory and the other defenders of the state’s voter suppression law that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a couple of weeks ago. This is from his new post: “Is North Carolina Trying To Lose One Of The Biggest Voting Rights Cases In The Nation? They aren’t good at this”:

“Here’s some free advice to young lawyers just starting our their careers: if your client loses a case, and you want the Supreme Court to review it, you might want to actually bring the case to the justices’ attention.

The state of North Carolina appears not to have learned this lesson.”

Millhiser goes on to explain how the state has yet to actually seek a stay of the Fourth Circuit ruling from the Supreme Court, 17 days after the decision:

“So we’re now 17 days out from the appeals court’s decision striking down much of the voter suppression law, and the state still hasn’t sought a stay from the Supreme Court. That, alone, is an ill-advised practice for lawyers in this and similar cases. The entire point of a stay is that a party believes that a lower court’s order is so untenable that it cannot remain in effect until after it has been reviewed by a higher authority. It’s tough to make that claim when you can’t even be bothered to file your stay request in a timely manner.

This principle is especially true in a voting rights case. At least before conservatives lost their majority on the Supreme Court, the justices were reluctant to disturb a state’s election law as an election drew nigh.

…The state’s delay, moreover, is only the latest blunder by a state that, at times, has seemed to be trying to lose a court challenge to its voter suppression law….

It’s as if these lawmakers were trying to get caught. Read more


Panel of scientists, including several from N.C., disagree with EPA’s rosy fracking report


N.C state government map of areas where natural gas reserves are suspected

More than two dozen scientists, including several from N.C. State and UNC Chapel Hill, have criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 draft fracking report, stating it downplays the risks that horizontal drilling poses to local water supplies.

This is conclusion of the EPA’s independent science panel, which recently released its own report  asking the agency to incorporate its findings, according to Inside Climate News, which published a story today.

These findings have implications for North Carolina, where fracking is legal. Although no commercial drilling has occurred, DEQ contracted with a private company to drill test holes in four counties: Scotland, Hoke, Cumberland and Stokes. Only Stokes County merited further investigation.

Thirteen other counties in North Carolina could be targeted for fracking because they sit on land thought to have pockets of natural gas:  Rockingham, Granville, Orange, Durham, Chatham, Wake, Lee Moore, Richmond, Montgomery, Anson, Davie and Yadkin.

The science panel’s six-page report painstakingly points out the many shortcomings of the EPA’s data, such as its lack of analysis of the hazardous chemicals and their byproducts used in fracking.

Nor did the EPA consider the myriad ways people and the environment could be exposed to fracking chemicals: bad well construction, abandoned wells and the movement of drilling fluids beneath the ground and the treatment of fracking wastewater, to name a few.

Fracking, which requires millions of gallons of water, could deplete drinking water from private wells. From the report:

“… the potential for water availability impacts on drinking water resources is greatest in areas with high hydraulic fracturing water use, low water availability and frequent drought.”

Concerns about water quantity — as well as water quality — are valid. The state’s climate is erratic, and it’s common for parts of North Carolina to be in a drought for some of the year.

In August 2015, all of the targeted fracking counties were in either a moderate drought or classified as abnormally dry, according to the NC Drought Monitor.

In spring 2011 and 2012, these same areas experienced moderate to severe droughts.

The EPA’s data and findings were incomplete in at least two cases, one in Pennsylvania and another in Wyoming, in which the agency prematurely ended its investigation into possible contamination from fracking operations.

The North Carolina scientists on the panel are Joel Ducoste, a professor, and Christopher Frey, a distinguished professor, at N.C. State University. Both are in the Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering department. David Richardson, an associate professor in UNC’s Department of Epidemiology is the third panelist.

Ducoste also serves on the the Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel, along with Peter Bloomfield, an N.C. State University professor of statistics, and Cass Miller, distinguished professor of environmental engineering at UNC Chapel Hill.

The panel suggested that the EPA revise its report to address the gaps in the data. The EPA told Inside Climate News that it would consider the panel’s conclusions, along with other literature and public comments before issuing its final report later this year.



The ultimate insult? N&O blasts Tillis as “cable’s friend”

Thom TillisAs we reported here last week, a federal appeals court in Ohio issued an unfortunate ruling on the matter of local governments establishing public broadband networks that compete with cable monopolies. There’s still hope that further appeals could overturn the decision, but for now the cable company giants have won a big victory and one of their chief champions, North Carolina’s junior U.S. senator, is crowing about it. This has spurred Raleigh’s News & Observer to bestow Tillis with one of the ultimate political insults. This is from the lead editorial in today’s edition of the paper:

Now the FCC order has been tossed by the courts, having been tenaciously fought by the big companies that like having their say over consumers with few options. The federal appeals court agreed that the limits state law place on municipal broadband operations are “onerous,” but said the FCC couldn’t override state law.

Which brings up Tillis’ insult. He said, “Today’s ruling affirms the fact that unelected bureaucrats at the FCC completely overstepped their authority by attempting to deny states like North Carolina from setting their own laws to protect hard-working taxpayers and maintain the fairness of the free market.”

Translation: Time Warner and other companies, thank goodness, will retain control of the market without having to worry about towns competing with them and thus will be able to charge people whatever the market will bear.

For Tillis to say the court ruling, which should be appealed, is a triumph for taxpayers is preposterous. It’s a setback. The “free market” he backs is one free of competition from municipal broadband services that offer a better product at a lower price.”

Commentary, News

Six things to have on your radar this week

Stumping across North Carolina – Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine will keep the intensity of the 2016 election season high with visits this week in Buncombe and Cumberland counties.kaine

Kaine will be in Asheville today promoting Hillary Clinton’s economic plan with a 6:30 p.m. rally at the Arthur R. Edington Education & Career Center.(Doors open to public at 4:30 p.m.)

Tuesday Kaine will be in Fayetteville with a 2:00 p.m. rally at the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, 536 N Eastern Blvd, Fayetteville, NC. (Doors open to public at noon.)

On the Republican side, Donald Trump will be back in the state Thursday, but this will be a private fundraiser at the Trump National Golf Club Charlotte. Published reports put the cost of this exclusive campaign event at $2,700 to $50,000 per person.

Paid Parental Leave Working America members and other community activists will urge Greensboro City Council members to support paid parental leave to care for new family members on Tuesday. Working America will make its case at 5:30 p.m. in the Greensboro City Council Chamber.

Conference on Education – Thursday marks the NC Chamber’s 2016 Conference on Education, bringing together educators and business leaders to share ideas and collaborate on the roles each can play in ensuring the state’s students are college and career ready for the jobs of tomorrow.

AtkinsonSpeakers include:
* Dr. June Atkinson, State Superintendent of the Public Schools of North Carolina, NC Department of Public Instruction
* Dr. James C. (Jimmie) Williamson, President, North Carolina Community College System
* Peter Hans, Senior Adviser, UNC General Administration
* Dr. Randy Woodson, Chancellor, North Carolina State University
* Bobbie Cavnar, Gaston County Schools, 2016 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year
* Melody Chalmers, Cumberland County Schools, 2016 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year

Thursday’s conference runs from 8:30 a.m. – 2:15 p.m. at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel & Convention Center in Durham.

Candlelight-vigilRethinking the Death Penalty  – Chances are you don’t know the name Sammy Flippen, but  Flippen holds the distinction of being the last person executed in North Carolina.  That was a decade ago on August 18, 2006.

On Thursday evening People of Faith Against the Death Penalty and death penalty abolitionists will hold an interfaith memorial prayer service and candlelight procession and vigil in Raleigh.

Thursday’s Interfaith Memorial Prayer Service begins at 7 p.m. at Pullen Baptist Church, 1800 Hillsborough St., Raleigh. This will be followed immediately by a candlelight procession to Central Prison.

New jobless data
– Unemployment rates increased in 96 of North Carolina’s counties in June, and we’ll
learn on Friday how the overall statewide jobless rate is doing.NO-HB2

Are we experiencing a Carolina Comeback? Economist John Quinterno points to evidence to the contrary.

LGBT Pride, #HB2 Protests    And we wrap-up the week with the 2016 Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade in Uptown Charlotte on Saturday and Sunday.  You can expect large crowd and heavy opposition to for the anti-LGBT House Bill 2, signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory back in March.


Best editorial of the weekend: Investigate McCrory administration’s water safety scandal

The Winston-Salem Journal minced few words this weekend in an editorial calling for an independent investigation of the McCrory administration’s handing of the ongoing scandal surrounding water safety near coal ash facilities.

Here’s the excellent conclusion:

“In a perfect world, McCrory, a former employer of Duke Energy, would initiate that independent investigation to dispel concerns that he remains too close to the company.

Tuesday, Randall Williams, the health director at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and Tom Reeder, an assistant secretary in the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, distributed an open letter to the media criticizing Rudo over his evaluation of the safety of well-water near the coal-ash ponds. They charged that ‘Rudo’s unprofessional approach to this important matter does a disservice to public health and environmental protection in North Carolina.’

Megan Davies responded with her resignation letter, also released to the media. ‘Upon reading the open editorial yesterday evening, I can only conclude that the Department’s leadership is fully aware that this document misinforms the public,’ she wrote. ‘I cannot work for a Department and an Administration that deliberately misleads the public.’

She leaves a job that paid her nearly $188,000 annually, McClatchy Regional News reported. In a deposition for a lawsuit, she and Rudo testified under oath that they had concerns about the state’s decision earlier this year to rescind do-not-drink notices to well owners, the news service reported. The release of the deposition led to the clash with the McCrory administration.

The problems over the water in question are on track to being resolved because of a legislative bill signed by McCrory, which makes the administration’s current words all the more frustrating and troubling. An independent investigation is sorely needed.”

It’s worth noting that the editorial puts a bit of an overly rosy spin on the matter of the water being cleaned up soon, but it’s on the money with its call for an investigation. Click here to read the entire editorial.