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DENR Secretary John Skvarla

DENR Secretary John Skvarla

With the expanding coal ash crisis and the bumbling response of North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources,  the environment is much on people’s minds these days. This morning’s lead editorial in the Greensboro News & Record (entitled “Now you see it…”) highlights yet another areas in which DENR is affirmatively abetting pollution and undermining public health and well-being — climate change. The editorial even manages to work in a quote from comedian Stephen Colbert in its skewering of DENR and its embattled boss John Skvarla:

“Once described as a “fierce urgency” and a major priority, the subject of climate change is slowly disappearing from state environmental agency websites.

Now you see them, now you don’t, scrubbed away. Forever. Without a trace.

As WRAL.com has reported, the Division of Air Quality website once prominently displayed climate change information on its front page as recently as two months ago. Today it features none.

That division’s parent agency, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, began deleting climate change references even earlier, in 2013. Once a key component of the agency’s strategic plan, climate change does not even merit “Important Issues” status on the today’s DENR website.

We probably should have seen this coming….”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

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DENR Secretary John Skvarla

DENR Secretary John Skvarla

Students of history will remember that back in the bad old days of the Soviet Union, once prominent leaders would sometimes “disappear” from official government photos and records when they fell from favor with the powers that be. One year an official could be a close ally of Stalin and the next simply become a “non-person.”

“Comrade Zinoviev? Never heard of him.”

It now appears that North Carolina may well have embarked on a similar path when it comes to one of the most important public policy issues of our time. According to WRAL.com, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (an agency already battered by the disastrous publicity it has received in the aftermath of the Dan River coal ash disaster) has decided to make climate change a “non-issue.” This is from the WRAL story:

“Links and documents about climate change have recently disappeared from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources website. Read More

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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.

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Frozen foodBaby, it’s cold outside! Another blast of polar air has settled into the eastern half of the country and appears likely to stick around for a while.  WRAL.com forecasts little relief over the next week and sports geek tongues are starting to wag about the possibility of the first truly frigid Super Bowl (which is scheduled in New Jersey for Groundhog’s Day). The website nflweather.com (yes, there really is such a site!) says it’s too early to offer a prediction, but other sites (e.g. Accuweather) are already publicly predicting tolerable temps.

And speaking of weather, rest assured that climate change deniers are — as they always do — seizing on the current cold snap as “evidence” that the planet really isn’t warming. If only that were the case. The scientists at NOAA tell us that 2013 tied as the fourth hottest year on record.

Yet another interesting take on the weather comes from conservative Illinois congressional candidate Susanne Atanus. According to the Chicago Daily Herald, Atanus went all Pat Robertson the other day during an interview with the paper — telling the editors that “she believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as punishment for gay rights and legalized abortions.”

Meanwhile, speaking of troubled souls plagued by certifiably insane ideas, check out “The Year in Homophobia” over on the website Right Wing Watch. Read More

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As 2013 fast recedes in the rear-view mirror, many of us would like to think that the worst of the Koch brothers/Tea Party/conservative theocracy wackiness is over. Unfortunately, there is ample reason to believe that 2014 will be even more of a knockdown, drag-out political battle. Here are just a few reminders as to why this is the case and why caring and thoughtful people will need to bring their “A games” in the coming year to push back  successfully:

Big, dark money - Dan Besse, editor of the excellent N.C. League of Conservation Voters blog, provides a link this morning to a story in Scientific American from over the holidays that highlights a new Drexel University study about who funds the climate change-denial movement. Surprise! The bucks aren’t coming from the grassroots.

Asheville: facing abolition? As was reported several times in 2013, one of the General Assembly’s most conservative ideologues, Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County, has been waging a nonstop war with the city of Asheville for some time — whether it’s taking away the city’s water system or its airport. Now, comes word from Asheville Citizen-Times columnist John Boyle that Moffitt may want to go a lot further.

Standing fast in favor of discrimination – Another discouraging story from over the holidays came from the North Carolina Family Policy Council, which is doubling-down in support of discrimination against LGBT kids and families. Read More