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Commentary

In case you missed it, an editorial in this morning’s Fayetteville Observer rightfully blasted the state Senate’s latest outrageous effort to gut state environmental regulations:

Some cynics are calling it the “Off-The-Wall Act of 2015.” Others suggest a better title might be the “Polluter Protection Act.”

In both cases they’re right. And what happened to House Bill 765 last weekend is a textbook chapter in how North Carolina lawmakers regularly commit outrages under cover of darkness.

Please note that we are not making a partisan statement here. For years, Democrats sparked Republican howls when they slipped through Trojan horse legislation that completely changed the purpose and effect of a bill. The howling traded sides when Republicans took over the General Assembly and quickly adopted time-tested Democratic dirty tricks.

House Bill 765 was, until recently, a one-page bill regulating the transportation of gravel. Last weekend, in the Senate, it became a 54-page epic that deregulated everything from profanity on public highways to the minimum age for operating all-terrain vehicles.

The bill is particularly pernicious in giving a greener light to polluters. It unprotects some wetlands, weakens stormwater regulations, removes air-quality monitors across the state and eliminates a requirement for recycling computers and televisions.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

DENRpicEver since Gov. Pat McCrory took office, the folks he’s put in charge of environmental protection have been doing pretty much whatever the state’s corporate polluters have demanded.  McCrory’s original DENR Secreatry John Skvarla did just about everything he could to turn the one-time watchdog into an industry lapdog.

Now, however, even McCrory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources thinks the state Senate has gone too far with its latest “regulatory reform”  proposal. The Department has sent an illustrated 4,100 word letter to the Senate in which it explains why it cannot support the latest version of House Bill 765.

Laura Leslie of WRAL.com has some of the details in the letter in this story.

Of course, given the interest the Senate has displayed in the past for the positions of the Governor, it seems hard to imagine that the letter will have much impact in the near term. The best one can hope for, apparently, is that — as with so many other issues — the 95% conservative House will slightly modify the positions of the 110% conservative Senate or, better yet, that the gridlock and dysfunction that grips the GOP-dominated General Assembly will help to scuttle the entire proposal. Stay tuned. The bill is scheduled to be debated on the Senate floor tomorrow.

Click here to read the full DENR letter.

Click here to read a fact sheet on the bill from the genuine watchdogs at the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Commentary

Climate change - droughtLike their intellectual predecessors who for so long denied the dangers of tobacco smoke, the creativity of climate change deniers in manufacturing excuses and red herring-filled critiques of common sense public regulations knows few bounds. At some point, however, the evidence simply becomes so overwhelming that reasonable people simply stop listening to the denials.

Let’s hope that a new federal EPA report hastens the arrival of that day. This is from a Washington Post article that was reprinted in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“A global agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions would prevent nearly 70,000 premature American deaths annually by the end of the century while sparing the country hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of economic losses, according to a major government study on the cost of climate change.

Slowing the carbon build-up in the atmosphere would also prevent severe damage to a wide range of critical ecosystems, from Hawaiian coral reefs that support tourism to shellfish beds off the East Coast, said the report released by the White House on Monday.

The report, a five-year, peer-reviewed analysis that assesses the benefits of alternative strategies for dealing with climate change, concludes that every region of the country could be spared severe economic disruptions that would result if greenhouse gas concentrations continue to soar.”

The article goes on to explain some of the myriad ways in which human health and overall well-being could be enhanced if we would simply stop poisoning the planet so aggressively.

Click here to explore and download the entire EPA report – “Climate Change in the United State: Benefits of Global Action.”

Commentary

steamroller1The hits (and slashes and burns) to North Carolina’s ever-more-fragile natural environment just keep on a comin’ at the North Carolina General Assembly.

Yesterday morning, while few people were watching, a Senate Committee unveiled and quickly approved yet another new proposal to lay waste to environmental rules (and a lot more of the state’s land and water that they helped protect). The good folks at the state chapter of the Sierra Club provided the following helpful and disheartening summary:

“From Mowing Lawns to Mowing Down Buffers?

An innocuous House measure dealing with local government authority to address overgrown vegetation was reconstituted on Wednesday morning into yet another omnibus regulatory reform bill.

House Bill 44 (Cities/Overgrown Vegetation Notice) was renamed “Local Government Regulatory Reform” in Wednesday’s Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee. The new version of the bill was then adopted which, among other provisions, would allow large portions of the middle and lower Neuse River watershed as well as the Tar-Pamlico River watershed to be exempted from the state’s vegetated buffer requirements that protect water quality for nutrient-sensitive waters.

The Neuse and the Tar-Pamlico are two of North Carolina’s largest watersheds. The provision (Section 13) would effectively exempt most properties in the affected areas, allowing much larger loads of pollution to enter the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico estuaries. [Note: An amendment offered by Sen. John Alexander (R-Wake County) that was adopted by the committee takes the upper Neuse River basin out of the bill, thereby protecting Falls Lake from the proposals in this bill.]

Another buffer provision (Section 14) in the newly repackaged bill would also severely reduce the size and efficacy of coastal wetlands buffers which are so important for protecting our estuaries and seafood industry.

North Carolina adopted a system of vegetated buffers to protect water quality following the events of the mid 1990’s, when massive fish kills occurred on the Neuse due to agricultural runoff depleting the oxygen in the waters.

Some of the buffer provisions in the new H 44 mirror provisions in H 760, Regulatory Reform Act of 2015, which has been awaiting action in the Senate since the first week of May.

Another provision in the bill (Section 7) would make it significantly harder for local communities to create bike lanes by requiring a majority vote of the NC Board of Transportation for what is now a local government decision. .

H 44 has no other committee stops in the Senate and is calendared to be on the Senate floor later today. If passed, it would return to the House for concurrence.”

Commentary

We know this stuff is complicated, but if you’d really like to understand what North Carolina is doing to promote solar power (and other renewables) and why it is good for our economy, jobs, competition, freedom, capitalism, electric bills and, incidentally, the future of the planet, watch this excellent presentation at last week’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation by Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. (Click to the 5:30 mark to skip the introduction).

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