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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

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This is from a statement released yesterday by the good people at the Environmental Defense Fund:

“The NC House is poised to approve S 786, the fracking bill, despite previous assurances to citizens to protect air and water quality and delay voting to issue permits until safety regulations are in place. It is premature for legislators to lift the prohibition on issuing permits for oil and gas drilling. Lawmakers should stick to the original plan: delay any vote on hydraulic fracturing until after the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) approves regulations that reflect community concerns about health and safety.

Lawmakers break their pledges. Read More

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FrackingIt was the administration of President George W. Bush that attempted to mask a giveaway to big timber corporations by plastering the label “Healthy Forests Initiative” on the whole scam. Now, in keeping with that proud tradition of deception in the cause of lifting up environmental degradation and corporate profits, North Carolina legislative leaders are attempting to ram through a new law to expedite the introduction of fracking into the state by disingenuously dubbing it the “Energy Modernization Act.”

Fracking is many things, but it is not “energy modernization.” Indeed, fracking represents “modernization” about as much as the widespread reintroduction of corporal punishment  would represent “education modernization.”

The fact of the matter is that fracking has been done for decades in the U.S. My own father “fracked” oil wells during the Eisenhower administration back in the 1950′s.

If anything, fracking represents the opposite of modernization — it is mid-20th Century fossil fuel exploitation at its destructive worst.  And while it appears that conservative politicians are bent on (and will not be dissuaded from) trying to bring fracking and the mess it produces to our fair state, the least they could do is be honest in labeling their efforts.