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Phil BergerMaybe it’s just life in our new and hyper-gerrymandered era in which a huge proportion of legislative seats are election-proof, but the age-old political aphorism that “all politics is local” does not appear to apply to some politicians. Take for instance, the man who is arguably North Carolina’s most powerful politician, State Senator Phil Berger.

A little over 48 hours ago, there was giant environmental disaster in the Senator’s hometown of Eden in Rockingham County when a pipe burst and 82,000 tons of coal ash (enough to fill 32 Olympic-size swimming pools) was released into the Dan River. The spill is making national headlines and Catawba Riverkeeper is tweeting pictures here.

In most parts of the world, you’d think that such disaster might send local elected officials into some sort of full-time emergency damage-mitigation mode. By all indications, however, that’s not the case in Eden. Read More

Sea-level rise 2As Raleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning, “Shored up,” the movie that North Carolina’s climate-change-denying state government didn’t want to be shown at the state Museum of Natural Sciences will get three public viewings this week.

“N.C. State University will screen it Wednesday night at the Hunt Library as part of a presentation on the North Carolina coast and climate change that will include a panel discussion.

Then, on Thursday night, there will be two screenings in Durham at the Full Frame Theater, sponsored by the environmental group The N.C. Coastal Federation. There also will be a panel discussion after the second showing that night.”

The panel discussion at the Durham Full Frame event at the American Tobacco Campus, will feature our own Chris Fitzsimon. Click here for more information.

Trans-Pacific PartnershipOne of the things notably and happily absent from President Obama’s State of the Union speech this week was any push for the pro-corporate/globalization agenda found in the move to revive “Fast Track” and approve the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). About which, all a caring and thinking person can say is “thank goodness.”

As explained in this commentary from last October (“NAFTA on Steroids?”), the TPP is a potentially grave threat to the well-being of American workers and consumers and our national security itself. By ceding democratic powers to corporations and international tribunals, the TPP threatens to subject American labor, environmental and consumer protections to being overruled and dismantled as unlawful restraints on trade. Meanwhile “Fast Track” is an already discredited idea that would bestow powers on the President to unilaterally negotiate and control trade agreements that has been appended on to TPP legislation in Congress.

The President’s failure to promote the proposal is being hailed by opponents as an extremely positive sign — especially given the public opposition of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. According to the good folks at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch program: Read More

John SkvarlaOne of the signature “accomplishments” of conservative state leadership in North Carolina in recent years has been the steady and ongoing rollback of state environmental protection laws and regulations. This is not to imply that the state has ever done enough — even under past General Assemblies and governors — to truly protect our ever-more-fragile air, land and water, but it’s also clear that things have gotten much, much worse in recent years.

Whether it’s the efforts to deny climate change and sea-level rise, fast-track fracking and off-shore oil drilling, stop efforts to clean up Jordan Lake, build artificial sea walls along the coast, roll back scores of rules and regulations, pack various commissions and boards with advocates hostile to environmental protection, limit land preservation, slash funding or just defund, demoralize, break up and change the mission statement of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources itself, the conservative agenda has been (and continues to be) a long and ambitious one.

Fortunately, one of the chief architects of the effort, DENR Secretary John Skvarla, has some advice for his agency employees who may feel a sense of discouragement at their increasingly disfavored status: Don’t worry, be happy! Read More

Water pollutionThis morning’s NC League of Conservation Voters news update contains a link to a very helpful and informative blog post on environmental policy by a former DENR official, who’s now out on her own. The post is entitled “Environmental Policy in N.C. : Looking back at 2013 and forward to 2014.”

The League’s update also provides this very troubling news (especially in light of the water pollution disaster in West Virginia in recent days):

“Administrative Watch: Clean Water on the Line

Every meaningful state protection for clean water in North Carolina will be at grave risk of being cut back or eliminated in the rules review process starting this week in Raleigh. Read More