News

After back-to-back hurricanes, North Carolinians embrace environmental policy changes

North Carolinians who has witnessed first-hand the destruction of Hurricane Florence (and now Michael) are voicing strong support for restricting development in flood-prone areas, according to a new Elon Poll.

More than half of those surveyed earlier this month believe these storms are getting more severe, with a majority wanting lawmakers to make policy decisions that minimize future risk:

In its exploration of climate change and environmental regulation policy, the poll found strong support for restricting real estate development in flood-prone areas (76 percent) and for increasing environmental regulations for coal ash ponds (72 percent). Sixty-two percent support incorporating findings from climate change scientists into local government planning and ordinances and 59 percent support increasing environmental regulation for hog farms.

More than eight out of 10 said that climate change is “very” or “somewhat” likely to negatively impact the coastal communities of the state within the next 50 years, a slight uptick from when the Elon Poll asked that question in April 2017.

Here’s more from the Elon poll:

You can read the full poll results and methodology here.

Education, News

Some welcome news for schools damaged by Hurricane Florence

Governor Roy Cooper has directed $25 million from the North Carolina Education Lottery Fund to help speed repairs to K-12 public schools damaged by Hurricane Florence in September.

The governor’s press office issued details in a statement Monday afternoon:

“Students need to get back to learning and educators need to get back to teaching, but many school districts can’t afford the repairs schools need,” Gov. Cooper said. “The lives of thousands of students, teachers and families are on hold and they need our help to recover.”

While many schools have reopened since Hurricane Florence struck last month, seven North Carolina school systems remain closed, keeping more than 130 schools out of operation and nearly 90,000 students out of class. Several affected school districts have depleted most of their contingency funds and need immediate financial assistance to repair roofs, flooring and electrical wiring, eradicate mold and mildew and replace furniture to get schools reopened.

The emergency funds will be administered by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Priority will be given to district and charter schools in Brunswick, Craven, Duplin, Jones, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender and Robeson counties that have immediate repair needs and are not currently in operation.

Some of the repairs should be reimbursable by federal disaster recovery funds. Transferring the money now gives schools quicker help and allows them to retain contractors to speed repairs.

Legislators return to Raleigh next week in a special session devoted to long-term recovery needs from the storm.

In Pender County, Topsail High School staff have been assisting with clean-up efforts at Cross Creek. (Photo: Pender County Schools Facebook page)

agriculture

Before next week’s legislative session, one voice state lawmakers MUST listen to on hurricane recovery (Audio)

Ahead of the October 15th special session, House and Senate members would be wise to listen to Grady McCallie with the NC Conservation Network on changes the state should make to minimize destruction from the next big storm. McCallie joined NC Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield in studio last week to discuss Hurricane Florence and efforts to protect agriculture, North Carolina’s waterways, and what you need to know about rebuilding in the floodplain:

Click below to listen to the full 12-minute interview:


Commentary, Environment, Legislature, News, Special Session

The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. Coal ash flowing like pudding in Neuse River near Duke’s Goldsboro power plant
Matthew Starr had paddled only a half mile of a stretch of Neuse River near Duke Energy’s HF Lee plant in Goldsboro when he saw initial signs that something had gone very wrong.

“There was exposed coal ash on trees, floating in the river, on the road,” said Starr, the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper. “There was coal ash lying the ground. We scooped it up out of the water.”

Flooding from Hurricane Florence had drowned two inactive coal ash basins in five feet of water. The active basins, according to state regulators, were structurally sound, but the Half Mile Branch Creek, according to images published by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), was flowing through the inactive basin complex, which is covered in trees and other vegetation.[Read more…]

2. Tillis, Burr and other Kavanaugh supporters must cling to one or more of four very troubling beliefs
The sordid saga of Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his nomination to serve a lifetime appointment on the United States Supreme Court is quickly careering toward some sort of very explosive and disturbing conclusion. Either the conservative jurist will be confirmed despite repeated allegations of dishonesty and past incidents of sexual violence or his nomination will be withdrawn or rejected based on those same allegations. In either instance, it’s a sad and remarkable state of affairs.
It’s the sexual assault allegations that have really seized the news headlines in recent days. The first allegation involves Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a California college professor and clinical psychology instructor, who says that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party more than 35 years ago while his buddy, Mark Judge, looked on. At last word, the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to receive testimony from Ford later this week. [Read more…]

3. A word to the General Assembly: This time, keep the politics out of hurricane relief
“Both the House and the Senate, our hearts go out to all the folks that were affected by Hurricane Florence,” Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican, said Monday as a handful of GOP power-players visited a storm-wracked Wilmington.
Horn promised Senate and House leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly were toiling away behind the scenes on a relief package, one so badly-needed for portions of the state submerged by Hurricane Florence and its watery aftermath.

And top Republicans like House Majority Leader John Bell say the agenda will be limited when they return next week for an emergency session, with a focus on relief funding, teacher pay and the school calendar in districts shuttered by the storm. [Read more…]

4. A tale of two stories: price gouging in NC from consumers, business perspectives
For most, news of an impending hurricane means picking up some bread and an extra case of water, fueling up the gas tank and deciding whether to evacuate.

For some businesses though, that same news means dollar signs – it creates an opportunity to take advantage of desperate people planning for the worst.

The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office has received more than 700 reports of price gouging – a prosecutable crime – since Sept. 7, when Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Florence. [Read more…]

5. Update from Robeson County: Florence wreaks havoc on already struggling and neglected communities
Huge pools of standing flood water still surround houses in south Lumberton’s Turner Terrace neighborhood, drawing roving clouds of mosquitoes.

Downed power lines float in the deep brown pools and lay tangled in the many fallen trees.

The stench of sewage is oppressive.

Still, many of its residents want to come home.

Adrienne Kennedy’s family has lived in this lower income Black neighborhood for three generations. But like many of her neighbors, she had to leave after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Flood damage and pervasive mold drove her and her two young sons to Fayetteville, where they still live as what she calls “climate refugees.” [Read more…]

6. Hurricane Florence is exposing North Carolina’s racial and geographic inequalities
Hurricane Florence tore through the Carolinas, leaving entire cities devastated, claiming dozens of lives, and doing what will likely be billions of dollars in damage. But this hurricane has exposed much more than tree roots and the foundations of homes — it has exposed the gross and growing inequality embedded in our state.

For years, eastern North Carolina has been home to some of the state’s most impoverished towns and communities. In 2016, 19 of the 20 poorest counties in the entire state were all located in the east. In addition to poverty, eastern North Carolina is also home to some of the state’s hungriest communities. In 2016, more than 300,000 people in the 18 counties declared disaster areas did not have enough food to eat each night. [Read more...]

Uncategorized

Don’t miss our October Crucial Conversation: NC’s deadliest policy failure (and how Virginia solved the problem)

Kenneth Gilliam

Make plans to join us Thursday, October 4th for a very special Crucial Conversation

North Carolina’s deadliest policy failure (and how Virginia solved the problem)

Featuring Kenneth Gilliam of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis

As a commentary on WRAL.com reported earlier this year, an average of 38 North Carolinians die each month in our state for lack of access to adequate health care. That adds up to more than 2,000 lost lives since 2014 when Medicaid expansion became fully available under the Affordable Care Act. As the commentary also pointed out, it’s unclear how many cases of breast cancer were undetected because 52,000 annual mammograms were missed or how many North Carolinians with diabetes have suffered because 36,000 people in that group had to go without their medication.

At the heart of this deadly policy failure, of course, is the stubborn refusal of North Carolina legislative leaders to expand Medicaid – something that’s happened (or is proposed as a ballot initiative this fall) in 36 other states, plus the District of Columbia.

Happily, one of the most recent additions to the Medicaid expansion list is our neighbor to the north, Virginia, which took action earlier this year. Join us as we hear from one of the policy experts who helped make that expansion a reality, Kenneth Gilliam of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.

A policy expert in the fields of education and health care, Kenneth also coordinates Health Care for All Virginians, a statewide coalition of organizations and individuals working to help create and advocate for accessible and affordable quality healthcare for all Virginians.

When: Thursday October 4 at 12:00 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)

Space is limitedpreregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch. Scholarships available.

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

***NOTE: Attendees will also receive a brief update on the ongoing effort to combat proposed constitutional amendments on North Carolina’s fall ballot***.