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John SkvarlaRaleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning that North Carolina DENR Secretary John Skvarla “bristled” yesterday at questions about his agency’s relationship with Duke Energy and the non-clean-up of coal ash ponds and dumps that the two parties have overseen.  This seems like an accurate description — Skvarla seemed visibly agitated in his testimony before the Environmental Review Commission — and not terribly surprising for a man whose agency was served with subpoenas in federal criminal investigation.

While perhaps understandable for a man in Skvarla’s predicament, it’s difficult to see, however, just how lashing out at critics is going to change things for him anytime soon. When you’ve premised 13 months of leadership Read More

North Carolina’s recent wintry weather has helped give rise to a lot of pent up activity this week. Tonight at 7:00 pm for instance, is an excellent event at the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies entitled “Organizing the South: How a Southern Workers’ Movement Can Change the Nation.” Click here for more information and here to watch the video livestream tonight.

And speaking of not-to-be-missed events, be sure if you get the chance to check out the Raleigh showing of “Inequality for All,” Robert Reich’s powerful new movie about America’s modern economy. The event will be held on Tuesday, February 18 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at William Peace University’s Browne-McPherson Music Building. Parking is free on campus. Click here for more information.

And speaking of the exploding inequality of the modern economy, check out economist Dean Baker’s essay from over the weekend in which he explains how America’s inequality hasn’t occurred by accident or simply as the result of the talent and hard work of the top 1%. To the contrary, as Baker explains, it’s happened “by design.”

And speaking of things that are exploding, the Duke Coal Ash disaster continues to be the biggest story in the North Carolina policy world. Read More

This just in from the nonpartisan advocates at Democracy NC who, several years ago, helped bring down former House Democratic Speaker Jim Black:

“As Coal Ash Controversy Intensified, Duke Gave Another $437,000 to Help GOP Causes in 2013;
Group Calls on McCrory to Disclose Duke’s Donations to Renew NC

New research by the election reform group Democracy North Carolina indicates that as Duke Energy faced increased pressure from environmental groups over its coal ash pollution, the company stepped up its political operation and donated more than $400,000 during 2013 to North Carolina and national political committees that benefited Republican lawmakers, including the campaign committee of Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Duke executive. Read More

Coal ashThe event details were only finalized the day of the “snowpocalypse,” so you may have missed the announcement, but seats are already going fast for the next NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon: “Duke’s Dan River coal ash disaster: What happened? How big is the problem? What’s next?”

The event will feature two of the state’s leading experts on the subject: former state regulator Amy Adams of the group Appalachian Voices and current state lawmaker, Rep. Pricey Harrison. Don’t miss this chance to get up to speed on one of the biggest and most important stories in North Carolina thus far in 2014.

Click here for more information.

Amy Adams of the group Appalachian Voices and State Rep. Pricey Harrison – See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/02/12/crucial-conversation-dukes-dan-river-coal-ash-disaster-what-happened-how-big-is-the-problem-whats-next/#sthash.x6Eyyz0u.dpuf

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