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Offshore oil platformEnvironmental organizations are doubling down on efforts to get concerned citizens to comment on the federal government’s proposed plan to open the coast of North Carolina to offshore oil and gas drilling. The deadline for comments in this phase of the process is this coming Monday March 30.

To comment, click here to visit the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management website and click on the “Comment Now!” button.

To learn more, check out the websites of the groups the N.C. Coastal Federation, Environment North Carolina, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the NC Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, and Stop Offshore Drilling of the Atlantic (SODA).

For an opposing, pro-drilling point of view, check out this recent op-ed by the Executive Director of the NC Petroleum Council.

Meanwhile, for a comprehensive overview of the subject and what will happen next, be sure to RSVP for the upcoming April 7, NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon, “Can this coastline be saved?” Click here for more information.

Commentary

Please join us for a very special Crucial Conversation luncheon in Raleigh on Tuesday, April 7:

Can this coastline be saved? Offshore drilling and what it will likely mean for North Carolina’s beaches and wetlands
Click here to register

Recently, the U.S. Department of the Interior released a draft five-year plan that would make the Mid- and South Atlantic coasts available to oil and gas leasing starting in 2017. This represents a significant shift in federal policy, as there have never been any producing oil or gas wells drilled off the ecologically rich coastlines of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Offshore drilling could threaten the economic livelihood of the coastal communities that rely on healthy waters and clean beaches to support local tourism and fishing industries. It could also damage barrier islands and marsh ecosystems, as well as sensitive wetlands that provide drinking water and hurricane protection to nearby communities.

NCPW-CC-2015-04-07-sierra_weaver

Join us as we explore this controversial “sea change” with one of the state’s leading experts on the topic, Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Sierra Weaver. Attendees will have a chance to get fully up to speed on the rush to drill and learn what will come next after the initial March 30 comment period and how to stay engaged in the issue.

Don’t miss the chance to learn more about this important issue at this critical juncture.

Note: If you’d like to comment by the March 30 deadline, go to http://regulations.gov, type “Docket ID: Boem-2014-0085? into the “search” tab and click on the “Comment Now!” button. You can also click here to check out information from the NC Coastal Federation Facebook page.

When: Tuesday, April 7, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Offshore oil platformThe debate over fracking in North Carolina and the threat it poses to the long-term well-being of humans and the environment in certain parts of the state is obviously hugely important. But there’s a strong argument to be made that the threat from offshore oil and gas drilling is significantly larger and more worrisome.

Not only would offshore drilling and the potential for oil spills put thousands of miles of coastline, our wonderful beaches and estuaries and the fragile marine ecology of of our Outer Continental Shelf at perpetual risk, it would pose enormous threats to the overall way of life of the state’s coastal communities. Put simply: Do we really want to turn the North Carolina coast into Louisiana?

If you share some or all of these concerns, there are two things to do:

#1 – Consider submitting comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management by Next Monday March 30. The good folks at the N.C. Coastal Federation have an “how to” here and here.

#2 – Attend the upcoming Crucial Conversation luncheon with expert Sierra Weaver of the Southern Environmental Law Center. Here are the details:

When: Tuesday, April 7, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

The Fayetteville Observer gets it right this morning with this editorial on the future of fracking in North Carolina — which becomes legal in the state today. After noting how the plummeting price of natural gas has slowed the fracking boom and may keep drillers away from North Carolina, the editorial puts it this way:

“But despite the less-than-rosy outlook, lawmakers remain eager to ensure that no obstacles hinder drillers. They hurried last week to pass legislation that forbids state regulators from imposing air-emission rules on fracking that are more stringent than federal standards – which are meant as minimums. So much for legislative vows that we’d have the most stringent fracking regulations in the country. We won’t.

As with so many environmental regulatory issues, government leaders see the primary customer as business and industry, whose interests appear to rank ahead of the health and safety of the people of North Carolina.

At the 2015 Sandhills Clean Energy Summit on Saturday, Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat, blasted the priorities of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources: ‘DENR, unfortunately, has become not the guardian of sustainability, but the second-best, most-genuflecting Department of Commerce in North Carolina.’

If North Carolina has an abundant gas resource, companies will want to mine it and will work with our regulations – which really should be strong. We don’t need to put out an “I’m easy” sign.

In matters like this, protecting the people is government’s top job. But our leaders aren’t even pretending.”

Meanwhile, advocates at Environment NC will hold a press briefing today at the General Assembly along with several legislators from areas likely to be fracked to release a new report that may well foreshadow what’s ahead in North Carolina. The report details the numerous environmental violations by the fracking industry in Pennsylvania – a place in which many rural communities have experienced a sharp decline in quality of life as a result of the industry’s proliferation. Stay tuned.

Commentary

The Fayetteville Observer has a fine editorial this morning taking the McCrory administration to task for the latest lame plan to deal with coal ash pollution and the ongoing discharges into our drinking water supplies. As the paper notes, the plan features a loophole the size of a coal fired power plant: it has no deadlines for compliance.

“Duke Energy was caught last year leaking excessive wastewater from its coal-ash ponds into soil and waterways. Duke is negotiating a federal settlement to pay resulting penalties. But the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has found a way to ensure that the company doesn’t violate the law that way again: New permits will make future discharges legal….

…The logic behind DENR’s approach now is to give Duke time to fix these problems. Thinking the company could stop all leaks overnight would be unreasonable. If Duke works toward long-term solutions, DENR can offer permits letting the status quo remain legal temporarily without incurring additional penalties….

Unfortunately, there’s an element missing from DENR’s permitting plan that creates a massive loophole for continued pollution: There’s no timetable for Duke to make progress. That puts DENR’s policy back into the absurd category.

What good is a state agency that just writes permits allowing major polluters to continue doing more of the same indefinitely? Including a wish, even a vague expectation, that Duke will one day mend its ways doesn’t cut it. For Duke’s part, the company has expressed its intent to work toward rapid closure of the coal-ash ponds. If so, that’s great. But it won’t be due to any tough stance from DENR.

As the Southern Environmental Law Center, which sued Duke over coal-ash storage, has noted, DENR’s permit plan includes no interim steps that Duke must take to stay on track. The agency needs to rethink its handling of these permits, and work toward a policy with more teeth for working with Duke and other polluters in the future.”

Of course, what the Observer fails to note is that is that such loopholes are no accident; they are what you get when a once proud environmental protection agency is gradually hollowed out and transformed pursuant to the demands and directives of the state’s biggest corporate polluters.