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060810_1509_Environment1.jpgThe good people at Environment North Carolina and their national allies released a powerful new report today that’s worth your time to check out. It’s called “Waterways Restored: The Clean Water Act’s Impact on 15 American Rivers, Lakes and Bays” and it does at least two extremely important things:

1)  It demonstrates the amazing success of a vitally important environmental protection law — the Clean Water Act, and

2) It makes the case for saving that law from the relentless attacks of corporate polluters and restoring it to its original intent of making all American waters safe for fishing and and swimming.

As the report explains, the Clean Water Act has, over the last 42 years, made enormous strides in cleaning up and preserving our nation’s waters. The report highlights 15 of these success stories, including North Carolina’s North Fork First Broad River, which has, thanks to the CWA, been been preserved as a pristine fishing venue and home to numerous endangered species. Other, more urban waterways like Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River and Boston Harbor have been brought back from the dead to become thriving and healthy sites as a result of the law.

Unfortunately and not surprisingly, major polluters continue to fight the law at every turn. Several years ago, they secured a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling that created some giant loopholes in the law and essentially excluded a huge number of the nation’s streams and waterways from protection. As a result, 56% of North Carolina’s rivers and streams are no longer protected by the law as they should be.

To correct this glaring gap in the law, the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA have proposed new rules to clarify that thousands of rivers and streams now excluded will be included in the law’s protections. The new report calls on these agencies to go ahead and finalize these new rules as quickly as possible.

Click here to read the report. The discussion of the North Fork First Broad River can be found on pages 25 and 26.

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If they won’t tell us what’s in fracking fluid, and it becomes a crime in NC to reveal fracking chemicals, would it be a crime to keep guessing random substances until you hit one? “Raspberry jam? No. Frappuccino? No. Ethylene glycol? I’m not at liberty to say, but you’re under arrest. Oh, and Starbucks just called about a copyright violation. It’s Frappuccino®, and they’re suing you for defamation. Corporate just called, and raspberry jam may or may not be an ingredient because those seeds keep the cracks apart the same way they get stuck between your teeth, so you’re under arrest for that too. Oh, yeah, and you’re “disturbing” the members of the Legislature, so that’s a Class 1 misdemeanor.”

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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

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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