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DENR Secretary to besieged employees: Smile and be happy! (Video)

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

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Will McCrory veto anything?

The Guv has hinted that he might try saying “no” to at least a couple of the General Assembly’s worst, last-minute absurdities (and it would be an amazing act of lap-dogginess if he doesn’t). So, if he does act, which ones will it be?

Over the weekend, Steve Ford at the N.C. Council of Churches neatly summarized three bills that seem to be at the top of the Governor’s potential “No” list:

“If Gov. Pat McCrory goes along with the General Assembly’s partial “disassembly” of state environmental rules – and if North Carolina loses significant ground in the battle against pollution, as likely would be the case – he won’t be able to say he wasn’t warned.

Fourteen of the state’s environmental groups have teamed up with a request that McCrory veto House Bill 74 – which they describe as a ’68-page compilation of special interest handouts.’ The so-called Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate and House in the closing hours of the legislative session that concluded on July 26, with environmental advocates strongly objecting….”

Read Steve’s entire column by clicking here.

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Fourteen enviro groups call on Guv to veto polluter bills

A group of 14 North Carolina environmental advocacy groups submitted a letter to Governor McCrory yesterday in which they urged him to veto two controversial bills advanced by polluters during the waning hours of the recently adjourned legislative session.

The letter describes the two bills as follows:

“House Bill 74 is a sixty-eight-page compilation of special interest handouts, some of which have already caught your attention. As you noted in your press conference on July 26th, the bill weakens standards that protect citizens, communities and gamelands from the impacts of landfills. Additionally, you pointed out that the bill strips local governments of control over the size and types of billboards that can be erected in a community….

[Senate Bill 515] is the third delay of a much-needed and federally required clean up of Jordan Lake. The rules need a chance to bear results. Once implemented, wastewater plant upgrades and better stormwater management will reduce water pollution in Jordan Lake and the rivers and streams that feed into it. Several local governments have already invested a lot of time and money complying in good faith with the Jordan Lake rules, and Senate Bill 515 punishes them for making those investments. In addition, delaying the rules exposes upstream municipalities and developers to legal challenges for failure to adequately protect a resource that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already found to be impaired.”

Click here to read the entire letter as well as new survey results showing that strong public support of most North Carolinians for strong environmental protection laws.

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Another legacy of the 2013 session: More polluted water

From the North Carolina Sierra Club:

“Legislature ends session with Jordan Lake bills

Jordan Lake bills signal tough times ahead for troubled lake

RALEIGH – Early this morning, the Senate gave final approval to

SB 515, a measure to further delay the rules intended to clean up Jordan Lake. Jordan Lake is a drinking water supply for more than 300,000 people in the Triangle.  Over the three years of delay, more pollutants will run into the lake making it more expensive and difficult to clean up down the road.

“We have a plan in place to clean up Jordan Lake.” said  Molly Diggins, state director of the NC Sierra Club. “ But now lawmakers in Raleigh have needlessly delayed that plan. Instead, they are diverting more than a million dollars from other clean water projects to pay for a pilot project that will not address pollution flowing into the Lake.” Read more

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The demise of Jordan Lake continues

More happy news for the environment in North Carolina: According to the one of the state’s most experienced and knowledgeable environmental policy experts, Sierra Club Executive Director Molly Diggins, today is likely to be an especially dark chapter in the ongoing effort to prevent the gradual transormation of Jordan Lake into a 22 square mile toilet as two destructive proposals await final legislative action.

Here is her take on Senate Bill 515 — a bill that awaits final approval in the House this afternoon:

“S 515, Jordan Lake Water Quality Act (House version) would violate the state’s 2007 agreement with EPA to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous coming into the lake, primarily from development.  Excess  nutrients promote algae growth, which kills aquatic and makes drinking water more expensive to treat. Read more