Commentary, News

Sierra Club calls for an end to failed “solar bee” project in Jordan Lake

As Chris Fitzsimon explained at some length earlier this month, the silly experiment by state environmental officials to clean up the Triangle’s Jordan Lake with over-sized eggbeaters known as “solar bees” has been the disastrous flop that anyone paying attention could have foreseen:

Solar bee“It is now indisputable that the mixers still in place aren’t doing anything about the algae problem, which makes sense when you think about it. As Mary McLean Asbill of the Southern Environmental Law Center told ABC11 News, “The pollution needs to be stopped before entering the lake. It is absurd to think you can remove the pollution from the lake without doing anything to stem the flow of it into the lake.”

It is absurd indeed, but that’s exactly what legislative leaders said would happen when they approved the no-bid contract with the company that makes the giant mixers that are supposed to miraculously stir the lake clean.

And their failure has cost more than just the several millions of dollars of taxpayer money that were wasted. The folly of the SolarBees means that the pollution in Jordan Lake has not been addressed and it’s the drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people.”

Now, environmental advocates are renewing their call to end the wasteful and destructive experiment. Yesterday, the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club called on the legislature’s Environmental Review Commission to demand action from the McCrory administration. This is the conclusion to the group’s letter:

“In light of the implications for water quality and taxpayers, we urge the ERC to, at a minimum, require DEQ to provide a status update on the report, along with the new timetable for review by the EMC and delivery to the legislature. We would also encourage the ERC to require DEQ to provide an explanation of any changes made to the originally published report.

Even without a formal presentation, the ERC would appear to now have adequate water quality monitoring data and in-depth analysis to show the ineffectiveness of the water mixers. We respectfully request the ERC to recommend that the NCGA end the SolarBee pilot project and allow full implementation of the Jordan Lake Rules. We also request that any taxpayer funds allocated to DEQ for the demonstration project be reallocated to the Jordan Lake nutrient management strategy developed by the Environmental Management Commission.

The ERC has an important role in protecting Jordan Lake as a safe drinking water source and ensuring that strategies to maintain Jordan Lake water quality are based on science. Thank you for your attention to this important water quality issue.”

Let’s hope that lawmakers are paying attention and that environmental advocates keep pressing their demands.

Commentary

Advocates respond to McCrory administration’s assault on Clean Power Plan

With the devastating impacts of global warming starting to flood in (literally and figuratively) like water off a rapidly melting glacier, the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory continues to do the destructive bidding of the fossil fuels industry. Rather than capitalizing on our state’s natural advantages and moving rapidly to deploy sustainable energy like solar power, the McCrory team is, sadly (even tragically), doing what it can to undermine the federal EPA’s delayed and still inadequate Clean Power Plan. The good folks at the Sierra Club explain today’s developments:

EMC backs McCrory administration draft carbon rules
Draft rules expected to be rejected by the EPA

RALEIGH – Earlier today, the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission (EMC) approved the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) plan to move forward with a state Clean Power Plan rule that is designed to be rejected by US EPA. The Commission also agreed to waive their normal internal 30 day review period for the agency’s draft proposal to meet carbon dioxide emissions reductions known as the Clean Power Plan. The EMC also approved the draft plan proposed by the agency, opening the rule to a period of public comment as required by state law.

“Rather than make an honest effort to reduce carbon emissions, the McCrory administration would rather use taxpayer money and resources to pick a fight with the EPA,” said Molly Diggins, state director of the NC Sierra Club. “In order to meet a false deadline to pursue a politically charged lawsuit, the Commission gave up its own 30 day opportunity to study the rule, and scheduled public hearings at the peak of the holiday season.”

During presentations to the EMC, DEQ staff made it clear that the draft Clean Power Plan only uses one path of reducing carbon dioxide emissions: greater efficiency at coal fired power plants. The EPA’s rule allows states to use three pathways (known as building blocks) to reduce carbon emissions, including natural gas and clean energy generation. DEQ has rejected the other options due to their legal quarrel with EPA.

“Our state has a booming clean energy sector that can help create jobs, lower utility bills, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But rather than move our state forward, Governor McCrory’s administration is intentionally submitting a plan that they know the EPA will reject,” added Diggins. “This is not a good use of time, money, or energy for our state. We should be making a legitimate effort to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and do our part in addressing climate change.”

The EPA Clean Power Plan requires NC to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by millions of tons; the draft plan only achieves 0.4% of the required reductions, according to DEQ officials.

“Today’s action will cost the state countless dollars to litigate the rule, without taking significant steps to reduce our carbon emissions in the meantime. This entire process is disrespectful of the public input and basic tenants of good governance,” added Diggins.

Commentary

The new normal? Polluter protection bill likely to spur more floods like those devastating eastern NC

When most people think of lax pollution controls, they usually think of dirtier and more toxic air and water. As a new release from the good people at the North Carolina chapter of Sierra Club reminds us however, sometimes lax regulation can lead to other, less obvious results — like dramatically increased flooding.  Here is a statement that the group released earlier today:

Bill on Governor’s Desk Could Worsen Flooding in Eastern North Carolina
Vital streams would lose protections under H 765

RALEIGH – As Eastern North Carolina recovers from record breaking rainfall, a bill awaiting Gov. McCrory’s signature could make future flooding in the state worse if it becomes law. H 765, Regulatory Reform of 2015, contains many provisions criticized by environmental groups. Among them, §4.31 would prohibit the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from requiring mitigation for impacts to seasonal streams from development. The bill was supported by the Chamber of Commerce and developers.

Seasonal or intermittent streams are well-defined channels where water flows for only part of the year, typically during the winter and spring. Nearly half (46%) of North Carolina stream miles – over 50K miles out of 112K total stream miles – are intermittent and small perennial streams. These streams are often streams drain between 55% and 85% of the land area in North Carolina and are often headwaters to our drinking water sources.

“Intermittent streams help manage flooding by providing a safe channel for the water to flow.” said Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper. “Without these streams, in periods of unusual rainfall, there’s nowhere for floodwater to go except through developed areas. The flooding we saw this week in the eastern part of our state would have been much worse if we didn’t have seasonal streams to carry floodwaters.”

H 765 was passed on the last night of the legislative session. The provision affecting seasonal streams was never debated in committee, nor did legislators hear from experts about the potential impact. The measures is on the Governor’s desk.
“The Governor should act decisively to protect North Carolinians from future flooding events by vetoing H 765,’” stated Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, communications director of the North Carolina Sierra Club.

On September 30, 2015, fifteen environmental groups called on Gov. McCrory to veto H 765. The letter requesting the veto can be found here: http://bit.ly/1VBMkdH.

Commentary

Senate tries to opt NC out of Clean Power Plan; advocates respond

Politics trumped common sense again today as the North Carolina Senate passed legislation that purports to prevent the state from complying with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan — even though the state is well-positioned to do so. Click here to read attorney and veteran regulator Robin Smith’s explanation as to why this action simply makes no sense.

Meanwhile, the good people at the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club responded:

Senate Again Makes Effort to Undermine Clean Power Plan

RALEIGH – This afternoon, the NC Senate gave approval to a revised version of H 571, renamed “An Act to Require State Agencies, Boards and Commissions to Implement a Clean Power Plan Consistent with the Federal Clean Air Act”. The measure does the opposite of what the title suggests and we question that it is in the best interest of the state.

After the Senate’s vote this afternoon, Molly Diggins, state director of the NC Sierra Club issued the following statement:

“Today’s vote is a bad faith circumvention of the historic Clean Power Plan. The Senate would require DENR to create a state plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that is designed to fail in order to set up a legal confrontation with EPA.”

“It is bad faith to shut the public, the private sector and even the utilities out of the process of developing the state plan. Without that input, the state cannot develop a plan that keeps the energy system reliable and energy costs reasonable. We should not –by law– prevent the state from claiming credit for carbon reductions that the state will see from renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other measures to achieve EPA’s goals.”

“The EPA is giving states unprecedented flexibility in designing an approach to comply with the rule that works best for them. The Senate’s actions would needlessly and without explanation or justification limit the state to just one option.”

“North Carolina has the chance to again be a leader in the Southeast – just as we were when we passed the Clean Smokestacks Act in 2002 and the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard in 2007. But it appears that Senate leaders and the McCrory administration would rather use the Clean Power Plan as a political football than as a practical way to improve our state’s air quality, economy, and the health of all our communities.”

More information about H 571 and the Senate’s actions: Read more

Commentary

Rep. McGrady latest lawmaker to criticize Gov. McCrory

McCrory_budget3Rep. Chuck McGrady is the latest legislative leader to question how Governor Pat McCrory, a fellow Republican, is doing his job.

McGrady—one of the House budget chairs—weighed in as part of a weekend Charlotte Observer story about the increasing friction between McCrory and the folks running the General Assembly.

McGrady, a former president of the national Sierra Club, said he would expect to find himself on the same page as a governor who came to office as a moderate conservative. But he laments what he calls “a lot of missed opportunities.”

“There’s a lack of engagement; there’s a lack of relationships,” McGrady said. “It’s like he doesn’t understand what our job is. And some of my colleagues don’t think he understands what his job is.”

As the Observer points out, the comments come on the heels of Senator Tom Apodaca saying McCrory “doesn’t play much of a role in anything,” and Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown saying he couldn’t figure out  “if Pat thinks he is the governor of Charlotte or the mayor of North Carolina,”

Now McGrady is piling on. Just another sunny Monday for the governor.