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Coal ash clean upIf you’re unclear as to the status of the various legal proceedings surrounding Duke Energy’s coal ash mess, be sure to check out this morning’s story over on the main PW site by Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey – “Flurry of filings by Duke and state officials spell lengthy delays for coal ash clean up.” As Sharon reports, things in North Carolina are, sadly, not following the relatively expeditious and effective path they followed in South Carolina (where the clean-up is already underway).

“In just a little over a year, from lawsuit to settlement in 2012, citizen and conservation groups in South Carolina pushed South Carolina Electric & Gas to begin cleaning up coal ash contamination at its sites there.

State environmental regulators stayed out and the utility stepped up, coming up with a plan to remove the ash from lagoons and either re-use it if possible or move it to lined storage elsewhere.

A similar push was afoot in North Carolina as groups investigated contamination at Duke Energy plants across the state, asked the state’s Environmental Management Commission for a ruling on how groundwater contamination rules applied to coal ash sites here, and prepared for lawsuits against the company for contamination at its Asheville and Riverbend plants.

But unlike what happened in South Carolina, Read More

Richard Burr 2Today marks Day #293 of Senator Richard Burr’s silent, one-man filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for the federal bench in North Carolina’s Eastern District, federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker. Now, today, there is a new and fascinating explanation from one of the nation’s leading judiciary watchers as to what’s really up with Burr’s blockade and those of his fellow conservative senators: secession.

As Andrew Cohen, contributing editor at The Atlantic explains in “How to secede from the union one judicial vacancy at a time,” it really boils down to a matter of extreme, cynical, hardball politics:

“Secession can come in many forms—just ask anyone in Texas who cares to discuss the issue with you. One particularly effective strain currently wending its way through America has been largely ignored by reporters, political analysts, and legal scholars, even though it’s a bipartisan problem within the federal government itself that undermines the rule of law and hinders the lives of millions of citizens.

Call it secession by attrition. Read More

This morning’s Greensboro News & Record is spot on in an editorial regarding the efforts of Republican lawmakers to keep communications related to the monster voting law secret. Here’s the conclusion:

“Just as literacy tests were really intended, not to make sure voters could read, but to limit voting by blacks, so might similar motives underlie newer forms of voting restrictions. Since federal courts have jurisdiction over state voting laws, they can compel the release of evidence that otherwise might be protected by legislative immunity. Many of the documents sought are communications between legislators and outside parties that normally would be considered public under the state’s open records law. Greater protection can be allowed for communications between legislators and their lawyers or those circulated only among legislators and their staffs.

The judge directed plaintiffs and defendants to confer in more detail about specific documents and issue a status report. A final decision will follow eventually — the case isn’t scheduled to go to trial until next year — but [Judge] Peake indicated she will order legislators to turn over at least some of the documents requested.

The way to get to the truth of the matter is to see what legislators were saying among themselves about the new voting laws.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Blue slipIn case you’ve lost count, today is Day #289 on the Richard Burr Blue Slip Watch. It’s been nearly ten months since President Obama nominated federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to fill what is the longest-standing vacancy in the federal court system in North Carolina’s Eastern District. Unfortunately, as we have reported repeatedly on this site, Burr is blocking consideration of May-Parker unilaterally and refusing to say why. It’s a disgraceful situation that is made only worse by the fact that May-Parker would be the first African-American and only the second woman to serve on the federal bench in the Eastern District in its history.

And speaking of inexcusable behavior by North Carolina elected officials, commentator Marena Groll of ENC Weekly did a great job this week of skewering Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly over the state’s worst-in-the-nation tax policy changes.

And speaking of the state’s misguided economic policies, Read More

This morning’s lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer gets it right on the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest campaign finance decision in favor of big money:

“Voting 5-4 along ideological lines, the high court said in McCutcheon v. FEC that the current limit on the aggregate amount individuals can give to candidates violates the First Amendment. The decision lifts the $48,600 limit that an individual could contribute every two years to all federal candidates. It also removed the $74,600 limit on individual contributions to federal party committees. However, the court kept in place the limit on giving to one candidate, $2,600 per primary and general election.

The decision adds to the unfolding catastrophe of the court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that allowed corporations and labor unions to give unlimited amounts to Political Action Committees and other groups that seek to influence elections and politicians. That decision spawned super PACs and ‘dark money’ groups in which corporations can spend directly to influence elections without having to disclose the source of the money. As a result, non-party, outside spending in 2012 tripled that of 2008….

The McCutcheon decision is especially shameful for the history behind the limits it ends and the evidence of how Citizens United has already warped the nation’s democratic process. The aggregate limits were imposed in response to the Watergate scandal that exposed anew the corrupting effect of campaign cash. That the court did not lift the limits on contributions to individual candidates seems to acknowledge the hazards of unlimited giving in a particular race. Why would that caution not also be applied to having wealthy contributors giving the maximum amount to an unlimited number of candidates?

Further, the court continued to spill more money into politics even as giving allowed by Citizens United is turning elections into auctions. Concentrations of wealth – whether held by corporations or the ever-soaring 1 percent – are distorting election issues with misleading and deceptive ads and subverting the ability of the popular will to make itself heard at the polls.”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.

newsobserver.com/2014/04/02/3753198/mccutcheon-ruling-compounds-damage.html?sp=/99/108The McCutcheon decision is especially shameful for the history behind the limits it ends and the evidence of how Citizens United has already warped the nation’s democratic process. The aggregate limits were imposed in response to the Watergate scandal that exposed anew the corrupting effect of campaign cash. That the court did not lift the limits on contributions to individual candidates seems to acknowledge the hazards of unlimited giving in a particular race. Why would that caution not also be applied to having wealthy contributors giving the maximum amount to an unlimited number of candidates?Further, the court continued to spill more money into politics even as giving allowed by Citizens United is turning elections into auctions. Concentrations of wealth – whether held by corporations or the ever-soaring 1 percent – are distorting election issues with misleading and deceptive ads and subverting the ability of the popular will to make itself heard at the polls.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/04/02/3753198/mccutcheon-ruling-compounds-damage.html?sp=/99/108/#storylink=cpy

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