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DENRpicEver since Gov. Pat McCrory took office, the folks he’s put in charge of environmental protection have been doing pretty much whatever the state’s corporate polluters have demanded.  McCrory’s original DENR Secreatry John Skvarla did just about everything he could to turn the one-time watchdog into an industry lapdog.

Now, however, even McCrory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources thinks the state Senate has gone too far with its latest “regulatory reform”  proposal. The Department has sent an illustrated 4,100 word letter to the Senate in which it explains why it cannot support the latest version of House Bill 765.

Laura Leslie of WRAL.com has some of the details in the letter in this story.

Of course, given the interest the Senate has displayed in the past for the positions of the Governor, it seems hard to imagine that the letter will have much impact in the near term. The best one can hope for, apparently, is that — as with so many other issues — the 95% conservative House will slightly modify the positions of the 110% conservative Senate or, better yet, that the gridlock and dysfunction that grips the GOP-dominated General Assembly will help to scuttle the entire proposal. Stay tuned. The bill is scheduled to be debated on the Senate floor tomorrow.

Click here to read the full DENR letter.

Click here to read a fact sheet on the bill from the genuine watchdogs at the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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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[Updated: The Senate adopted the conference committee report as its first act this morning]. As state lawmakers prepare to gather this morning for what could be the final day of the 2013-14 General Assembly, it should come as no surprise that one of the final acts is likely to be the enactment of a polluter “wish list” that was crafted mostly out of public view.

According to  environmental protection advocates who finally got a chance to  begin reviewing  the last minute conference committee report that emerged to Senate Bill 734 last night, the legislation contains at least a dozen gifts to industry. Many of the changes are technical, wonky and even minor on their own, but make no mistake, the cumulative effect will be to weaken environmental protection, hasten the development of more open land and wetlands and further imperil our increasingly fragile environment.

Here are just a few of the changes identified by an expert with one of the state advocacy groups that’ve been trying to  monitor the legislation: Read More

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Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Reporter Tyler Dukes of WRAL.com has a story this morning about how developers are pushing hard from “reform” legislation that would further decimate North Carolina’s already rapidly disappearing wetlands. As Dukes reports:

“A proposal to roll back environmental rules long loathed by developers would remove protections for critical amphibian nurseries sprinkled across the state, environmental advocates say.

The General Assembly’s 60-page regulatory reform package, approved by the state Senate last week, affects so-called isolated wetlands, tiny plots of land disconnected from other waterways. Environmentalists say the habitats serve a vital function for wildlife and pollution control, especially farther from the coast, where other types of wetlands are more rare.”

But here’s the kicker — check out the response of state Home Builders Association lobbyist Lisa Martin:

There aren’t many isolated wetlands that are worth keeping. This has nothing to do with swampy, marshy, boggy, wetlands most people think of when they think of wetlands.” (Emphasis supplied.)
Gee, thanks, Lisa. We can’t think of anyone we’d trust more to issue the definitive assessment on which wetlands are “worth keeping.”
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Climate change - droughtFrom the good people at Environment NC:

“Raleigh, NC – Today, a broad cross section of community and elected leaders joined Environment North Carolina to praise the newly announced federal carbon pollution limits for power plants, the leading cause of climate change. Members from the medical, faith, and business communities all the lauded public health and other benefits the new rule will have for North Carolinians.

‘This announcement is a huge win for the health of our families, our environment, and our clean energy economy,’ said state representative Pricey Harrison. ‘It gives North Carolina a chance to increase jobs generating wind and solar power, and improved energy efficiency; jobs that cannot be outsourced. We are already a leader in the South, and I look forward to helping our state become a national leader in the clean energy economy.’ Read More