The McCrory administration and environmental protection: To seem rather than to be

North Carolina state sealThe New Bern Sun Journal featured a powerful op-ed over the weekend by Carrie Clark and Dan Crawford of the League of Conservation Voters that skewered the Governor’s penchant for talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to North Carolina’s natural environment. As Clark and Crawford explained, McCrory has repeatedly sought to portray himself as a friend of renewable energy and environmental protection (positions he knows to be popular with voters) even as his administration promotes policies that go in precisely the opposite direction:

“Consider the case of North Carolina’s growing solar industry. As McCrory touts the need to support solar energy in our state, he talks out of the other side of its mouth when he signs legislation that ends it. This short-sighted reversal comes just as the industry was taking off. In 2014, the solar industry provided 4,000 North Carolinians with jobs, but by allowing the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit to expire, the McCrory administration is effectively turning out the lights on solar energy in North Carolina.

One side of the McCrory administration will tell you that they are simply trying to get the government out of the business of picking winners and losers. Here again, they are being two-faced because McCrory will point to the importance of creating jobs when justifying government subsidies for fracking.

The same duplicitous language is evident in McCrory’s economic rationale for supporting dirty energy. While van der Vaart vocalizes energy affordability as a “weapon against poverty,” he openly fights against renewable energy sources as part of the energy mix, which have proven cost-savings for all North Carolinians, not to mention reduced public health and environmental impacts….

While McCrory’s public-facing persona continues to take advantage of photo ops such as the “historic” construction of a wind farm, his talking head van der Vaart guts renewable energy from the inside. Under van der Vaart, the McCrory administration outlined the “harms” of solar energy panels on our environment; a PR campaign in support of opening North Carolina’s coast to offshore oil and gas drilling; and not one but two lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on key federal policies: the Clean Water Rule and Clean Power Plan.”

The bottom line: North Carolina’s state motto is, of course, Esse quam videri (“To be rather than to seem”). Unfortunately, when it comes to the natural environment, the stance of the McCrory administration is almost always the precise opposite of this maxim. Click here to read the entire op-ed.


Local officials deliver letter to Guv demanding right to limit fracking in their communities

This was released today by the good people at Environment North Carolina:

North Carolina officials want local control of fracking

Raleigh, NC– More than 70 mayors, county commissioners, city councilors, and other elected officials from communities across North Carolina issued a letter to Governor Pat McCrory today, calling for the local authority to limit and prohibit dangerous fracking operations. The letter’s release follows another bill passed by the legislature to constrict local authority of the drilling practice.

“As local elected officials, we are deeply concerned about the significant and growing threat hydraulic fracturing poses to our health and environment,” reads the letter, organized by the advocacy group Environment North Carolina, the statewide advocacy group. “We urge you to stand up for the right of all communities to determine whether, where, and how this dirty drilling is conducted within their own borders.”

During the last legislative session, the General Assembly circumvented local government authority by restricting municipalities from placing any regulations on fracking. Last year, the legislature prevented communities from banning fracking from their jurisdictions.

North Carolina isn’t alone in this trend. In May Texas adopted a law barring local regulations of fracking, invalidating measures in Denton and other Texas communities. Oklahoma soon followed suit.

The battle over who regulates fracking comes as the scientific evidence against the drilling technique continues to mount. An analysis of recent peer-reviewed studies determined that 72 percent of them showed “indication of potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination.”

The best way for North Carolina to protect public health from fracking is to follow the lead of states like Maryland and New York and prevent it from beginning altogether, Environment North Carolina said today. Until then, city and county governments should have the chance to protect their citizens from harm, said the group.

“Local communities deserve clean water and clean air, so they deserve local control of fracking,” said Liz Kazal, field director for Environment North Carolina.

Click here to read the entire letter.


Advocates respond to McCrory administration’s assault on Clean Power Plan

With the devastating impacts of global warming starting to flood in (literally and figuratively) like water off a rapidly melting glacier, the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory continues to do the destructive bidding of the fossil fuels industry. Rather than capitalizing on our state’s natural advantages and moving rapidly to deploy sustainable energy like solar power, the McCrory team is, sadly (even tragically), doing what it can to undermine the federal EPA’s delayed and still inadequate Clean Power Plan. The good folks at the Sierra Club explain today’s developments:

EMC backs McCrory administration draft carbon rules
Draft rules expected to be rejected by the EPA

RALEIGH – Earlier today, the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission (EMC) approved the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) plan to move forward with a state Clean Power Plan rule that is designed to be rejected by US EPA. The Commission also agreed to waive their normal internal 30 day review period for the agency’s draft proposal to meet carbon dioxide emissions reductions known as the Clean Power Plan. The EMC also approved the draft plan proposed by the agency, opening the rule to a period of public comment as required by state law.

“Rather than make an honest effort to reduce carbon emissions, the McCrory administration would rather use taxpayer money and resources to pick a fight with the EPA,” said Molly Diggins, state director of the NC Sierra Club. “In order to meet a false deadline to pursue a politically charged lawsuit, the Commission gave up its own 30 day opportunity to study the rule, and scheduled public hearings at the peak of the holiday season.”

During presentations to the EMC, DEQ staff made it clear that the draft Clean Power Plan only uses one path of reducing carbon dioxide emissions: greater efficiency at coal fired power plants. The EPA’s rule allows states to use three pathways (known as building blocks) to reduce carbon emissions, including natural gas and clean energy generation. DEQ has rejected the other options due to their legal quarrel with EPA.

“Our state has a booming clean energy sector that can help create jobs, lower utility bills, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But rather than move our state forward, Governor McCrory’s administration is intentionally submitting a plan that they know the EPA will reject,” added Diggins. “This is not a good use of time, money, or energy for our state. We should be making a legitimate effort to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and do our part in addressing climate change.”

The EPA Clean Power Plan requires NC to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by millions of tons; the draft plan only achieves 0.4% of the required reductions, according to DEQ officials.

“Today’s action will cost the state countless dollars to litigate the rule, without taking significant steps to reduce our carbon emissions in the meantime. This entire process is disrespectful of the public input and basic tenants of good governance,” added Diggins.


McCrory administration admits human role in climate change as it opposes efforts to combat it

Pat McCrory 4

Gov. Pat McCrory

Donald van der vaart

NCDEQ Sec. Donald van der Vaart

In the through-the-looking-glass world inhabited by modern American politicians and activists of the right, climate change and the contributing role played by humans and their consumption of carbon-based fuels is a left-wing myth. Like the fierce tobacco defenders of the last century who for so long loudly proclaimed that the jury was still out on cigarettes and health, there is scarcely a prominent conservative politician with the courage to acknowledge the obvious — even when they know better. With rare exceptions — Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire are two of the most prominent to publicly break with Koch-funded orthodoxy — denial and obfuscation are the name of the game.

Some politicians, however, seem to want to have it both ways. Take North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory for example. Since taking office, McCrory has regularly regurgitated the official right-wing lines that there is no conclusive evidence, that current warming may be the result of other natural forces, blah, blah, blah.  Recently, the Guv has even gone so far as to join forces with other conservative governors to oppose the Obama administration’s late and inadequate efforts to combat climate change — an EPA initiative known as the Clean Power Plan.

But here’s the weird thing: In the process of decrying the Clean Power Plan, McCrory has acknowledged the role of humans in climate change. This is from the McCrory administration’s official statement explaining its battle against the Clean Power Plan (in which it claims the issue is already being addressed at the state level):

“For the first time in more than 18 years North Carolina’s air quality meets all federal clean air standards and the state has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 25 percent since 2005, all without federal intervention.”

Did you catch that? The McCrory administration is already taking credit for “reduced greenhouse gas emissions.” Earth to the Governor: Greenhouse gases are what cause climate change. That’s what makes them bad and worth reducing. Don’t take my word for it; read Merriam-Webster: Read more


McCrory aptly signs Polluter Protection Act late Friday when no one was watching

You’d think if he was going to sign a bill that’s been widely condemned in editorials across the state and decried by every major environmental organization in North Carolina, he’d at least have the courage to stand up, face the cameras and explain himself.

Unfortunately, that’s not how Pat McCrory rolls. Instead the Guv simply buried the Polluter Protection Act in a list of several bills signed late last Friday when the media had already pretty much packed up shop for the week. All in all, it was a fitting way to usher in a new and hugely destructive law that was crafted in secret by corporate lobbyists and rammed through the General Assembly with as little public input as possible.

The Monday newsletter of the League of Conservation Voters explains once more what’s in this mess of a new law:

Gov. Pat McCrory on Friday left no doubt where he stands. By signing HB 765, the 2015 “rules reform” bill now widely known as the Polluter Protection Act, McCrory acted to protect polluters at the cost of greatly increased danger to the health, clean water, and clean air of all North Carolinians. Read more