Commentary

Editorials agree: Trump’s seizure of consumer protection agency is dreadful news

As reported in this week’s edition of the Weekly Briefing, the Trump administration is doing its worst to ruin one of the best public agencies in Washington — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Not surprisingly, the plan is meeting with widespread derision. Lead editorials in today’s Greensboro News & Record and Raleigh’s News & Observer explain.

Here’s the N&R:

“This is part of a pattern. This administration has tried to push more Americans off health care, offer huge tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of Medicare and other safety-net programs, deny overtime to middle-class workers and allow financial institutions to insert fine print into contracts barring consumers from filing lawsuits if they have a grievance.

No one has said the Dodd-Frank bill couldn’t be improved, especially in regard to its regulation of small banks. But big financial institutions don’t need the government’s protection from average Americans.

These are the actions of an administration that sides with the powerful over the weak. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created because the powerful didn’t need help, but ordinary Americans did. That is still true today.”

And here’s the N&O:

“That is horrendous, because in the wake of the financial collapse of 2008 and thereafter, this agency was one with promise, a sign that President Obama understood that consumers needed protection from the vultures in the financial industry. And the Wells Fargo accounts scandal, coming years after the Great Recession, was strong evidence as to the good work of which the CFPB was capable.

Trump has populated the financial regulation part of his bureaucracy with millionaires who are looking to protect other millionaires but not anyone else.

And without action from the courts standing up for the independence of this valuable watchdog, it appears that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

Stand by. More condemnations of this brazen act are sure to follow.

Environment

Water quality permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline still in limbo; DEQ makes fourth request for info

The water quality permit application filed by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, still lacks key information, including an analysis of certain claims regarding economic development and the purported demand for more natural gas.

In a letter sent yesterday to the ACP, the Division of Water Resources asked for a fuller analysis of pipeline’s potential impacts to water quality and to the economy in specific areas of the affected counties. ACP did provide maps as suggested by DWR staff, but it lacked analysis and specificity. “A detailed analysis of each area’s potential for project-induced growth was not completed,” the letter read, “nor was there a detailed discussion” of existing or future regulations required protect water quality.

The construction and operation of the ACP would present serious water quality issues. The pipeline would cross major rivers and streams, as well as wetlands. Construction in parts of the Neuse River, would be particularly invasive using a cofferdam method. It essentially segments a part of the river, drains it and then builds walls to temporarily separate it from the rest of the waterway.

Aquatic organisms, including endangered and threatened species, and their habitats could be temporarily or permanently harmed, according to federal environmental documents.

The majority owners of ACP, LLC, are Dominion Energy and Duke Energy. The pipeline would start at a fracked gas operation in West Virginia and continue 600 miles through Virginia and eight counties in eastern North Carolina: Northampton, Halifax, Nash, Edgecombe, Cumberland, Sampson and Robeson.

These are some of the poorest areas of the state. Proponents of the pipeline promise that the project will create jobs and spark industry growth in economically distressed areas. However, no definitive data has been produced to prove that claim.

“The analysis should include a specific discussion of industries that need additional natural gas capacity to operate in North Carolina,” the letter went on.

Proponents and the utilities have also contended that as the population increases, there would be an insufficient supply of natural gas to meet demand. However, most of the natural gas transported by the ACP would be transported to the utilities to fuel their plants and dispatch the energy to the grid. Opponents have pointed out that there is no natural gas shortage, nor an indication of one in the future. Renewable sources, such as solar and wind, they say, could provide the energy.

The North Carolina portion of the 600-mile pipeline would begin in Pleasant Hill, in Northampton County, and is supposed to end in Prospect, in Robeson County. However, last month a Dominion Energy executive made off-hand public remarks implying that the ACP could continue into South Carolina. That apparently prompted DWR to ask the ACP to to explain their reasons for ending the pipeline in Prospect.

On Nov. 22, Prospect was the site of a leak from a Piedmont natural gas compressor station that emitted 1,500 pounds of natural gas into the air. Nearby residents told the Robesonian newspaper that they were awakened in the middle of the night by a noise that sounded like “a 747 taking off.”

ACP has submitted several other permit applications that are under review by respective divisions within the Department of Environmental Quality:

  • The Division of Air Quality is expected to decide on ACP’s permit for the Northampton County compressor station by Dec. 15.
  • Next week the Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources is scheduled to begin reviewing stormwater permit applications for portions of the route in Cumberland and Nash counties.
  • On the Nov. 6, the Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources disapproved of the project’s sediment and erosion control plans. ACP has since submitted additional information; review of the updated plans is nearly complete.

 

DWR 401 Add Info Ltr 112817 by Anonymous B0mRtPKjko on Scribd

Commentary

National immigration leader to headline December 5 Policy Watch luncheon

RSVP today for next Tuesday’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation –

The national immigration debate in the era of Trump: Where do things stand? What will happen next?

Featuring Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council

Click here to register

Few subjects spark more passionate debate in 21st Century America than immigration policy. Even as President Donald Trump and his allies adhere to their divisive and destructive stances, millions upon millions of caring and thinking Americans are rising to the challenge and pushing back in favor of just, humane and economically beneficial policies.

One of the leading voices in promoting laws, policies, and attitudes that honor our proud history as a nation of immigrants is the Washington, DC-based American Immigration Council. Join us on Tuesday December 5, as we welcome AIC Executive Director Beth Werlin to North Carolina and hear her update on (and assessment of) the immigration battles in Washington.

Beth will be joined at the podium by Raul Pinto, Staff Attorney with the North Carolina Justice Center’s Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, who will provide additional information on the state of the immigration debate in North Carolina.

Don’t miss this very special event!

** Co-sponsored by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice **

When: Tuesday December 5, at 12:00 noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: ***NOTE: NEW LOCATION*** The North Carolina Advocates for Justice Building at 1312 Annapolis Drive (near the intersection of Wade Ave. and Oberlin Rd.) in Raleigh.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $15, admission includes a box lunch. Scholarships available.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Courts & the Law, News

Interested in running for judicial office in 2018? Here’s a helpful guide

There have been a number of changes to the judicial elections process over the past year, and NC Policy Watch has received a number of questions about the new requirements to run for office.

Changes next year will include adding partisan labels to the ballot and the elimination of judicial primaries. Thankfully, the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has prepared a helpful guide for candidates for judicial office in 2018.

Individuals interested in running for a judicial seat must be at least 21 years of age, licensed to practice law in North Carolina, a registered voter in North Carolina and, for district and superior court judges, a registered voter in the district they plan to run in.

Since all judicial contests in the state are now partisan, the candidate shall indicate on their election form either an unaffiliated status or the political party with which they are affiliated. The verified party designation or unaffiliated status shall be included on the ballot, according to the guide.

“During 2018, there will be no primary for judicial office; therefore, the requirement to petition to file as unaffiliated is not in effect for 2018,” the document states.

There could be more changes to come but for now, you can read the full guide below.

Guide_Candidates for Judicial Office 2018 by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

Commentary

Must read: Veteran journalist says GOP tax cuts feed “cancer of inequality”

Hedrick Smith, a truly great American journalist who, among many other positions, once served as Washington bureau chief for the New York Times, is out with some new and scathing analysis of the GOP tax schemes making their way through Congress.

In his latest post, Smith derides the tax cut plans as feeding America’s “cancer of inequality.”

Here are some of the more powerful excerpts:

“The most lethal damage to American society embedded in the Republican tax plan now being rushed through Congress is that it will metastasize the cancerous economic inequality that has been eating away at the health and fabric of American democracy over four decades.

Three years ago, in his monumental work, Capital in the 21st Century, the French economist Thomas Piketty warned that ‘When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income,… capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.’

As evidence, Piketty points to the tumor of concentrated wealth accumulated by American’s super-rich 1% since the late 1970s while middle class incomes have stagnated. Despite long-term growth, his studies show the impact of wedge economics: Trillions of dollars have shifted from the middle class paychecks to ballooning stock grants for CEOs and the bulging portfolios of billionaires….

Piketty’s analysis pin-points the fatal pathology built into the Republican tax plan: Its focus on corporate tax cuts will accelerate the malignancy of inequality….this is a tax cut engineered to fuel what Professor Piketty warned is the most dangerous dynamic of modern market capitalism – skyrocketing gains for investors earned at the expense of slow-growing pay for most people who work for a living. It’s bound to lead, he says, to a self-perpetuating American plutocracy, like the 18th century European aristocracy and “hierarchy of wealth” portrayed by Jane Austen and Balzac, Dickens and Victor Hugo.

That scenario mocks the economic populism that powered Donald Trump’s race for the Presidency and that won the support of working class, blue-collar and rural Americans – the tens of millions left jobless or financially disabled by the rush of American multi-national corporations to cash in on globalization.

For all his mouthy, ostentatious anti-elitism, Trump has shelved campaign populism to forge an alliance with the Republican political establishment on behalf of the super rich, who bankrolled critical GOP campaign victories in 2016 and kept Congress in Republican hands…. Read more