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2-24-14-NCPW-cartoonTry as some people might to wish North Carolina’s massive coal ash problem away, it isn’t going anywhere soon — either physically or politically. Another chapter will begin to unfold this coming Sunday evening when the CBS news magazine show 60 Minutes  examines the situation.

According to the Charlotte Business Journal, Duke CEO Lynn Good will be interviewed by Leslie Stahl. No word on whether they will discuss the intimate relationship between Duke and the McCrory administration.

The Guv. of course is a former 28-year Duke employee, who keeps hiring many of his former colleagues into state government.

The story was apparently recorded in September, but the coal ash mess hasn’t gotten any better since — with residents of Lee County balking at hosting a repository, new leaks springing up and a federal investigation of the whole situation still lurking out there somewhere.

Bottom line: Stay tuned. Neither the coal ash itself or the political fallout from the Dan River disaster will be buried anytime soon.

Commentary
John Skvarla

John Skvarla

Sharon Decker

Sharon Decker

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory announced a major change in his cabinet today. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker is out and Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources John Skvarla will take her place. No word yet on who will head DENR after Skvarla.

Though it’s hardly unprecedented for a Governor to, in effect, transfer secretaries from one agency to another, in a normal/sane world this particular switch would raise eyebrows. After all, it’s one thing to be the state’s top environmental protection chief and it’s quite another to be it’s top business schmoozer.

Or at least it ought to be.

Unfortunately, under the present regime in Raleigh, such an idea is perfectly logical and consistent. That’s one of the main reasons that today’s announcement produced a unanimous yawn from state political observers: No one ever had any illusion that Skvarla was doing anything other than serving the state’s big business community at DENR. By all appearances, the new gig will simply allow him to do essentially the same thing he’s been doing  — just with a different title.

 

Commentary

In case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out this this editorial in the Wilmington Star News: “Special interests invited to drilling meeting but not public.” As the paper rightfully explains, the McCrory administration’s latest gaffe when it comes to protecting our environment was as offensive as it was familiar.

The paper summarily dismisses and rebuts state Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla’s disingenuous excuses for excluding environmental advocates from the meeting:

“His staff told reporters and representatives of environmental groups that they couldn’t come in because of concerns that their attendance might arouse allegations of conflict of interest in the permit process. And attendance by special-interest groups funded by the petroleum industry would not?

What is clear is that state officials seem very comfortable shutting out people who may have some pertinent questions about safety and environmental measures regarding oil and gas exploration. Thursday’s meeting seems to be part of a pattern of excluding people who have serious concerns about the potential for pollution, dangers to marine life and public health problems and even geological ramifications if North Carolina is opened to oil and gas exploration, as Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders want.”

The authors conclude this way:

“North Carolinians of all political stripes are concerned about their natural surroundings and about their families’ health. Keeping secrets from them will not win their trust, or support for drilling.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

The post-2014 election era in North Carolina government is not off to a terribly encouraging start. As Tyler Dukes and Cullen Browder of WRAL.com reported yesterday:

Gov. Pat McCrory told a gathering of state and federal officials Thursday it was time to figure out what kind of oil and gas resources might lie off the North Carolina coast.

The governor was the last in a day-long lineup of speakers that included agencies involved with the regulation of offshore drilling as well as groups with close ties to the petroleum industry.

But aside from McCrory’s comments, the entire invite-only event was off-limits both to the public and environmental groups that say they should have at least had an opportunity to listen.

And this is from Craig Jarvis of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

State and federal government officials met in a private workshop on Thursday to talk about the potential for offshore energy development off the North Carolina coast. The reason it was not open to the public, as Dome recently reported, was ostensibly to prevent the appearance of influence on permit application reviews currently underway by the federal government.

So, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources explained at the time, attendance would be limited to agencies and elected officials. But actually, representatives of three associations whose membership includes the oil and gas industry were included on the agenda and attended.

Not that behavior like this is anything new in Raleigh since the GOP took control, but it does serve to make clear to anyone who had any doubts, that all of this talk about representing and listening to everyone and governing “with humility” is simply a laughable smokescreen as the men in power go about doing the dirty business that their real bosses (the Kochs, the Popes, et al.) have ordered. Hold on tight – it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
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Falls LakeIt’s last-minute sausage making time down on Jones Street and lawmakers are doing their worst to ram through a raft of measures that are of, by and for the well-heeled special interests. See for example the 54-page “technical corrections” bill that was passed by the House last week and that’s scheduled to blitz through the Senate Rules Committee this morning.

On the environmental front, the last-minute mischief is taking many forms, including, as reporter Craig Jarvis of Raleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning, another industry-designed threat to clean water. This is from Jarvis’ story entitled “Stream buffer protections rewritten by industry, DENR“:

A plan to update regulations that protect streams and rivers was adopted last year after a nearly five-year process that incorporated input from a wide range of interests.

In just five months this winter, the McCrory administration rewrote those rules with the help of private companies that had a financial stake in the outcome – including the company where state Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla once worked….

Environmental groups that had been following the development of the new rules for years were surprised to find out the rules had been rewritten at all. They didn’t find out about it until this month, when a low-profile bill surfaced in the General Assembly that would authorize replacing the rules with the version written by the seven-member group.

“I didn’t even know they had met or issued a report,” said Heather Jacobs Deck, riverkeeper with the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, who was involved with the original rules. “That was a shock. We had no idea. It was a little frustrating to know at the end of the process there were tweaks and other changes. We weren’t part of it.”

None of this is to say that there might not be good reasons to update the rules in this complex and important area. But the fact that the McCrory-Berger-Tillis team is plunging ahead without even informing — much less consulting — the state’s incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated environmental advocacy community is a testament to the bad faith that the state’s conservative political leadership has long brought (and continues to bring) to what ought to be its sacred duty to preserve our air, land and water.

Read Jarvis’ entire story by clicking here. Read the bill in question by clicking here.

more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/28/4036052/stream-buffer-protections-rewritten.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/28/4036052/stream-buffer-protections-rewritten.html#storylink=cpy