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Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr addresses the media alongside a family directly impacted by Duke Energy’s leaking coal ash pond at the Lee power plant near Goldsboro.

Advocates and activists for stronger action on coal ash than is included in the new state law that officially took effect today gathered outside the Old State Capitol in downtown Raleigh this morning to deliver more than 40,000 signatures to Governor Pat McCrory. The signatures represented roughly one North Carolinian for each ton of coal ash spilled into the Dan River at Duke Energy’s Eden facility in February.

Speakers at the event organized by the group Environment North Carolina were flanked by volunteers who held aerial photos of each of the ten coal ash dumps that will be left essentially unaddressed by the new legislation.

Kim Brewer, a former resident of Dukeville near the Buck Steam Plant in Rowan County assailed the new law as doing “nothing” to help her community. “There’s hexavalent chromium in our wells, and my two daughters were born with serious birth defects. My neighbors have suffered from brain tumors, cancer and respiratory problems that we believe are connected to coal ash pollution. We deserve a full cleanup. I don’t want any other family to go through what we’ve been through.” Read More

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Image: www.savehofmannforest.org

This morning’s lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer gets it right in critiquing N.C. State’s proposal to sell tens of thousands of acres of forest in eastern North Carolina to developers. While crediting the university with scaling back its original plan to sell of the whole thing for bulldozing purposes, the editorial rightfully notes that the new plan (to sell part to developers and another part to a company that would treat the rest as a kind of timber farm) is still a cause for concern, As the paper notes:

The best plan for Hofmann’s future was voiced on the opposite page earlier this month by former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, long a conservationist and a respected attorney. Meeker believes the State of North Carolina or an “environmental group” should buy the forest and set it up for permanent conservation. Either the state or such a group could pay for the forest in installments and reap the benefit of selling those training rights to the military.

Meeker notes the money involved, now at roughly $130 million, would in installments be fairly small inside a state budget of $21 billion. The university would get money for its environmental departments, and the forest would be preserved.

Of course, such a plan would probably require state leaders to step up to the plate and do two things the current group hates to do: spend money on higher education and protect the environment. The N&O and former Mayor Meeker advance a good idea, but we’re not holding our breath that Gov. McCrory or legislative leaders will heed the advice.
For more on the efforts of activists to save this important natural resource visit:  http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/save-hofmann-forest-from/ and https://www.facebook.com/SaveHofmannForest
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Sea-level rise 2The latest story comes from New York but it might has well be Florida or North Carolina. Once again, politicians (this time led by New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo) are opting for the politically expedient “quick fix” that will make everyone feel good for a few moments but do nothing to address the long-term scientific reality that confronts the American eastern and southern coasts.

This is from a “must read” editorial in yesterday’s New York Times by one of the nation’s leading coastal geologists, North Carolina’s own Prof. Rob Young of Western Carolina University:

Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $207 million plan to dredge millions of tons of sand off the south shore of Long Island and spread it along the beaches and dunes. The Army Corps of Engineers, which will direct the federally financed project, says it will stabilize Fire Island and reduce the storm surge hazard for the mainland.

In fact, the project will do neither. It is a colossal waste of money and another consequence of the nation’s failure to develop a coherent plan to address the risks from storms faced by states along the eastern seaboard and gulf coast.

As Young goes on to explain, not only is the project unnecessary in that the barrier island in question is already naturally rebuilding itself (and that the dredging about to take place will disrupts important endangered wildlife habitats), but it’s also emblematic of a broader and even more serious problem: The U.S. literally has no comprehensive plan to deal with rising seas: Read More

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[Updated: The Senate adopted the conference committee report as its first act this morning]. As state lawmakers prepare to gather this morning for what could be the final day of the 2013-14 General Assembly, it should come as no surprise that one of the final acts is likely to be the enactment of a polluter “wish list” that was crafted mostly out of public view.

According to  environmental protection advocates who finally got a chance to  begin reviewing  the last minute conference committee report that emerged to Senate Bill 734 last night, the legislation contains at least a dozen gifts to industry. Many of the changes are technical, wonky and even minor on their own, but make no mistake, the cumulative effect will be to weaken environmental protection, hasten the development of more open land and wetlands and further imperil our increasingly fragile environment.

Here are just a few of the changes identified by an expert with one of the state advocacy groups that’ve been trying to  monitor the legislation: Read More

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Advocates at the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation have formally called on the state Environmental Management Commission to conduct a review of questionable circumstances surrounding the demise of rules designed to prevent water pollution.

According to a letter from the groups that was delivered to the Commission yesterday, proposed rules governing riparian buffer mitigation (i.e. the use of vegetated strips of land along side waterways to protect them from pollution) were scuttled last year when the Rules Review Commission received several letters of objection. Under state law, when the Commission receives 10 or more such letters, the rule(s) in question are forwarded to the General Assembly for additional review.

In this case, however, four of the 11 letters of objection ultimately submitted were from McCrory administration staffers employed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). As the environmental advocates note, this may well have been an unprecedented and highly questionable set of circumstances: Read More