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The N.C. Mining and Energy Commission has finalized the proposed safety regulations that companies will need to follow in order to frack for natural gas in our state. Over the past 18 months the commission has adopted 120 rules they believe will ensure that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely.

Still environmentalists worry the process has been rushed. Mary Maclean Asbill with the North Carolina Environmental Partnership and Southern Environmental Law Center says there are very real concerns that fracking will contaminate the state’s groundwater.  Asbill appeared last weekend on News and Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the coalition’s concerns. (Click below to hear an excerpt of that interview; the full radio segment is available here.)

The next step will be a series of public hearings this August in Wake, Lee and Rockingham counties, giving citizens one last chance to weigh in. The Commission is slated to present the rules to the General Assembly by October.

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Howard ManningState Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, Jr. spent better than two hours in a Raleigh courtroom this morning listening attentively and asking numerous questions as lawyers for the City of Asheville and the Attorney General’s office debated the constitutionality of legislation passed this spring by the General Assembly to seize the City of Asheville’s municipally-owned and managed water system and turn it over to a newly-formed regional entity.

Though the hearing featured a great deal of give and take between the judge and the lawyers, the argument was clearly dominated by Asheville’s lawyer, Mecklenburg County Senator Dan Clodfelter. Clodfelter, an attorney at the firm of Moore and Van Allen (which is, ironically enough, Governor McCrory’s old employer) offered a lengthy and detailed presentation in which he explained the history of the Asheville system and the almost comically ham-fisted efforts of conservative legislators to remove the system from city control as part of a longstanding partisan battle.

Manning, one of the state’s most experienced and respected jurists, clearly grasped the legal (and political) realities of the case from the outset of the hearing.

At one point, Read More

Reporter David Forbes at Mountain Xpress posted a disturbing story yesterday evening about the controversial move pushed through the General Assembly by Buncombe County state legislators to convert the city of Asheville’s water and sewer system into a regionally-controlled asset. Here is the lead:

“Emails obtained by Xpress reveal that some state legislators have asked city of Asheville representatives to drop their lawsuit contesting a state-mandated transfer of the water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District. The emails also show legislators discussing the fate of legislation that consolidates Asheville and Buncombe County parks-and-recreation services — a move that could save the city $5 million a year. Further, the candid discussions shine a light on a long-rumored proposal that the state may force Asheville to switch to district-based elections.

Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer says the city is being ‘told to settle the lawsuit or else’ face more unwanted legislation. Read More

Wow! Things are getting a little heated in the battle over the future of the Asheville city water system. As you will recall, Rep. Tim Moffitt has made it a kind of personal crusade to pass legislation that would turn the municipal water system over to a regional authority — a place where it could quite conceivably be headed for privatization.

Last night, the  Asheville City Council voted unanimously to place a non-binding referendum on the November ballot for city voters to weigh in on the issue.

This move does not appear to have sat well with Moffitt. Read More

It seems like a safe bet that every Governor given the option probably uses it, but there’s something enormously frustrating about Governor Perdue’s penchant for simply taking no action at all on bills sent to her by the General Assembly. This was the approach she took once again this past weekend on a controversial bill opposed by the entire Asheville City Council.

As constitutional scholars out there will no doubt recall, the Governor of North Carolina has three choices when it comes to most of the bills passed by the legislature: 1) sign them, 2) veto them or 3) do nothing — in which case the bill becomes law as if she had signed it.  (Some bills become law immediately without ever being presented to the Governor).

The reasons for the decision to provide option #3 probably appear in the record of the debate surrounding the amendment that gave the Governor the veto back in the 1990′s and I’m willing to be persuaded that they make some kind of sense. But from the perspective of a simple, common sense test, it’s hard tosee what they possibly are.

Legislators have to vote “yes or “no.” Why does the Governor get to vote “present?”

Also, as a practical matter, what in the heck is preventing Perdue from making a “yea” or “nay” decision? After all, she has only four months left to serve. Read More