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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

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Offshore windThis just in from the good folks the the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club:

For Immediate Release

North Carolina Moves One Step Closer to Offshore Wind Development

WILMINGTON – Earlier today, the US Department of the Interior announced that it has defined three Wind Energy Areas off the coast of North Carolina which total 307,590 acres. The possibility of offshore wind development for the state intensified after a study by UNC Chapel Hill researchers found that potential wind resources off our coast were the largest on the Atlantic seaboard. A report by Governor Perdue’s Scientific Advisory Panel on Offshore Energy came to a similar conclusion in 2011.

After the announcement, Zak Keith, lead organizer for the NC Sierra Club issued the following statement:

We have known for years that North Carolina has the best offshore wind resource potential of any state on the East Coast. This announcement is a welcome sign that our state can start to take advantage of the clean energy opportunity sitting on our doorstep.

We are one step closer to creating clean energy jobs in North Carolina. It’s becoming clear that offshore wind is a better option than drilling off our coast.

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Solar powerThe good people at Environment North Carolina have released a new report on the state of solar power (“Lighting the Way: The Top Ten States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2013″) and the news is both good and bad for North Carolina.

First, the good — North Carolina is in the Top 10. As the Environment NC folks note:

North Carolina’s solar capacity more than doubled in in 2014, bringing the total capacity to 557 megawatts. Growth in the number of large scale “solar farms” built across the state is mostly responsible for the increase. “Solar energy is emerging as a go-to energy option here in North Carolina which exciting,” said Dave Rogers, field director with Environment North Carolina.

Now the bad news: The state’s current solar capacity represents just a small fragment of what’s possible and North Carolina public officials could be doing a heck of a lot more to help — especially with respect to residential installation. To this end, the report touts several policies already at work in other leading solar states that would help, but that are, unfortunately, under constant assault from big fossil fuel interests and the conservative advocacy groups they help fund: Read More

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FrackingThe ongoing and fairly remarkable debate over whether the oil and gas industry can prevent the public (and even emergency first responders) from knowing the names of the chemicals that go into the toxic stews that are injected underground in the controversial process known as fracking may be taking a promising  turn.

Though Gov. McCrory, the General Assembly and the state Mining and Energy Commission (which has been designated to usher the industry into North Carolina) have opted thus far to allow the chemicals to remain secret, there is some hope that federal regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency will weigh in to overrule this approach.

This is from the Union of Concerned Scientists: Read More