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Coal ashStuck inside with nowhere to go on a wintry day? We’ve got lots of information for you to get fully up to speed on Duke’s Dan River coal ash disaster today.

First is Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey’s excellent new story on the legal reverberations from the disaster and the new North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ wimpy approach to enforcement.

Second is yesterday’s Weekly Briefing which argues that the disaster is just the tip of a very big and dangerous iceberg of environmental neglect in North Carolina.

Third is the announcement of new Crucial Conversation luncheon on the subject featuring Appalachian Voices advocate Amy Adams and State Rep. Pricey Harrison. The event is scheduled for two weeks from today. Get more details and register by clicking here.

Finally,  be sure to check out the latest editorial on the subject from the Winston-Salem Journal entitled “Duke Energy, legislature must remove environmental threat.” As the authors note: Read More

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Coal ashThis week’s top laugh-out-loud headline comes directly from the office of Governor McCrory, which had the chutzpah to send out a news release yesterday afternoon with the following headline: “Governor McCrory Directs Duke Energy to Bring Coal Ash Spill Under Control.”

What? The Duke people hadn’t considered doing this during the four days since the spill commenced? And now that their former mid-level P.R. staffer has gotten around to speaking out, they’re going to act? Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Earth to Governor McCrory: How about issuing a directive that might actually have an impact — something like telling your DENR Secretary to stop eviscerating his department and its mission and telling your buddies over at the General Assembly that you’re no longer going to be a party to their ongoing efforts to sell, develop, pave, frack and poison every square inch of land, every gallon of water and every breath of fresh air in our rapidly deteriorating natural environment?

For more info on the Dan River disaster check out this slide show from the good folks at the N.C. Conservation Network.

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John SkvarlaOne of the signature “accomplishments” of conservative state leadership in North Carolina in recent years has been the steady and ongoing rollback of state environmental protection laws and regulations. This is not to imply that the state has ever done enough — even under past General Assemblies and governors — to truly protect our ever-more-fragile air, land and water, but it’s also clear that things have gotten much, much worse in recent years.

Whether it’s the efforts to deny climate change and sea-level rise, fast-track fracking and off-shore oil drilling, stop efforts to clean up Jordan Lake, build artificial sea walls along the coast, roll back scores of rules and regulations, pack various commissions and boards with advocates hostile to environmental protection, limit land preservation, slash funding or just defund, demoralize, break up and change the mission statement of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources itself, the conservative agenda has been (and continues to be) a long and ambitious one.

Fortunately, one of the chief architects of the effort, DENR Secretary John Skvarla, has some advice for his agency employees who may feel a sense of discouragement at their increasingly disfavored status: Don’t worry, be happy! Read More

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Water pollutionThis morning’s NC League of Conservation Voters news update contains a link to a very helpful and informative blog post on environmental policy by a former DENR official, who’s now out on her own. The post is entitled “Environmental Policy in N.C. : Looking back at 2013 and forward to 2014.”

The League’s update also provides this very troubling news (especially in light of the water pollution disaster in West Virginia in recent days):

“Administrative Watch: Clean Water on the Line

Every meaningful state protection for clean water in North Carolina will be at grave risk of being cut back or eliminated in the rules review process starting this week in Raleigh. Read More

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A state environmental agency spokesman said a recent political appointment to head a water quality conservation program is qualified because he served on the Apex town council during a drought.

Bryan Gossage, who was hired Nov. 4 by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources listed as the executive director of the Clean Water Trust Management Fund, despite only have run small communications and public relations firms in the past.

On Tuesday evening, DENR spokesman Drew Elliot indicated in an email that Gossage’s environmental conservation experiences stems from serving on the Apex town council for eight years, including during a drought.

Bryan Gossage, right, with Gov. Pat McCrory. Source: Gossage's LinkedIn page.

Bryan Gossage, right, with Gov. Pat McCrory. Source: Gossage’s LinkedIn page.

“He provided oversight of town water management and conservation efforts, including conservation efforts during the drought of 2007-2008, the worst drought in the recorded history of the region,” Elliot wrote in an email to N.C. Policy Watch.

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