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Tomorrow is Earth Day.

Yesterday was the one -year anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Today oil remains in the Gulf and independent scientists confirm that the region is still suffering from the blowout. But oil spills are only one threat to our oceans.

Seafood Market in Louisiana

Overfishing is considered the most critical peril facing our oceans. Overfishing means catching too many adult fish so there are not enough to breed and replenish the species. Around the world, 52% of fish stocks are in imminent danger of collapse. When a fishery collapses, large fishing fleets move onto plunder other species with no concern for the future.

Seafood lovers have the power to change overfishing – Earth Day is a great day to start! Read More

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its long-awaited proposal Tuesday on regulating the waste produced by coal-fired power plants. The regulation comes in response to the December 2008 spill of more than a billion gallons of coal ash from a Tennessee Valley Authority facility in Kingston, Tenn.

The EPA  did not classify the substance as “hazardous”  but maintains the new rules will ensure the safe disposal and management of coal ash, while supporting safe and beneficial uses.

Rep. Pricey Harrison, vice-chair of the N.C. House Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources, believes the oversight is long overdue. Harrison talks about the dangers of coal ash in North Carolina this weekend on “News & Views” with Chris Fitzsimon.

For a preview of Rep. Harrison’s interview, please click below:

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If creating commissions with long fancy titles were solving the greenhouse gas problems, North Carolina might lead the nation.

At last count, at least three boards are charged with identifying ways the state can reduce carbon emissions and thrive in the emerging green economy.

When one of those panels—the Legislative Global Climate Change Commission – met this week it learned that as North Carolina studies, other states are leading with innovative solutions.

Maryland has set a goal of reducing green house emissions 25 percent in a decade, and has a package of policies to get them there. In Arizona, lawmakers set the state on course to cut heat-trapping gases 50 percent below 2000 levels by 2040. New energy standards in Minnesota has that state moving toward reducing emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

In each of those cases, it took similarly charged panels less than a year to recommend a goal and policies to achieve it. The North Carolina commission has been meeting for three years and counting.

There’s no reason North Carolina can’t reduce green house gases 80 percent by 2050. It would require some sacrifice, but the costs of delay – in lost jobs, infrastructure destruction and weather-related human casualties — are much greater.

So here’s an idea: Instead of another commission debate on whether the climate is changing, let’s start dealing with it.

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As Congress begins work on climate change legislation, the most likely mechanism for tackling global warming is a “cap and trade” system that would limit and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. Both presidential candidates campaigned on the idea last fall.

But depending on how it is designed, such a system can be heavily tilted toward the public interest or, as some would prefer, the interests of polluters. That debate is just beginning.

Jim Rogers, the high-profile CEO of Duke Energy is on record supporting cap and trade legislation — but on Duke’s terms.

Earlier this week, Rogers blasted President Obama’s plan to charge polluters who emit greenhouse gases and invest the proceeds from the sale of carbon permits into speeding up the transition to clean energy. Rogers called Obama’s plan a tax that would hurt consumers.

Duke Energy has a different plan: for Congress to give valuable carbon permits free of charge to polluters, who can then sell them for profit. The stakes are enormous for Duke Energy, which is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide among U.S. utilities.

The truth is that cleaning up our coal burning plants will be costly. It is likely those increased costs will be passed on to ratepayers regardless of the outcome of this debate.

The details won’t always be easy to follow, but a few principles should be clear.  Permits to emit carbon should be used for public benefit, not private windfall. And free allocations, if any, should be limited in size and restricted to a short transition period.

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President Obama’s move Monday to allow states to set vehicle emission standards may be a breath of fresh air–quite literally– for North Carolina, where an estimated 40 percent of smog-forming emissions and 34 percent of global warming emissions in our air comes from cars and trucks.

In a sweeping set of directives, President Barack Obama acted aggressively to address global warming and modernize the ailing domestic auto industry by ordering quick action on increased fuel-efficiency standards and swift review of the long-standing request of California and 14 other states for permission to put in place stricter tailpipe standards to reduce global warming emissions.

As of now– once federal permission is granted– 15 states are poised to enjoy cleaner air by virtue of having enacted legislation adopting tailpipe standards that are more stringent than current federal regulations.  There’s no longer any reason for North Carolina not to be among that group.

In 2002, North Carolina proudly passed the Clean Smokestacks bill, which addressed air pollution from coal-fired power plants.  At the 2002 Governors’ Summit on Air Quality in Charlotte, then Governor Mike Easley said it was time now to clean up the cars.  “We have to remember we all came here riding in our own little smokestacks,”  he said.

Legislation has previously been introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly that would have our state join the growing number of others states seeking cleaner emission standards, but legislators took a wait and see approach to how EPA would respond to the request of other states for a federal waiver.

Legislators may find of interest a recent NC Division of Air Quality report showing that adopting the California clean car standard would reduce global warming pollution 40% over and beyond the benefits of increased federal fuel economy standards.  That’s good news for a state found to be among the most vulnerable in the nation to the adverse impacts of global warming. 

The national winds are blowing in favor of cleaning up global warming pollution from cars and trucks.  The question now is– will North Carolina join other future-minded states and adopt clean cars legislation?