NOAA forecasts busy Atlantic hurricane season, with at least 3 major storms

NC Attorney General recovering after minor stroke

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is recovering after experiencing a minor stroke on Monday evening in Raleigh.

The 55-year-old Stein revealed on Facebook that doctors performed a successful procedure removing a small blood clot.

“I am beyond blessed to have no lingering effects,” Stein wrote in his post.

Stein credits his wife with recognizing the stroke-like symptoms after they returned from a walk with their dog.

She insisted Stein go to the hospital for care. He is expected to rest for a couple if days before return to work.

Stein, who has served as North Carolina’s Attorney General since 2017, is widely expected to run for governor in 2024.

Stein’s positive prognosis may be attributed to his wife’s quick action.  According to the CDC, these are the signs and symptoms of a stroke to look for:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

DEQ approves permit for NC Renewable Power, a chronic violator of the Clean Air Act

The colored dots represent facilities that have permits to discharge or emit pollution near the NC Renewable Power facility. In greater Lumberton, there are 40 facilities that emit air pollution, 15 hazardous waste sites, nine unlined landfills, four coal ash structural fills, as well as other contamination sources. (Map: DEQ)

The NC Department of Environmental Quality has issued a an air permit to an energy facility that has racked up a long history of violations and fines, and sits in the middle of an environmental justice neighborhood in Lumberton.

North Carolina Renewable Power, which burns poultry litter and virgin wood to produce energy, has a long history of Clean Air Act violations. Policy Watch reported earlier this year that from 2016 to 2020, the facility emitted at least 5,141 tons, equivalent to 10.2 million pounds of pollutants, according to state records.  These pollutants included formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, as well as carbon monoxide, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.

The plant has not operated since 2020, after failing to comply with a Special Order by Consent, entered into with DAQ, to address emissions exceedances.

The new permit reclassifies NCRP as a “Prevention of Significant Deterioration” major air pollution source. This classification requires a facility to install “Best Available Control Technology,” but doesn’t prohibit it from increasing emissions. In essence, this reclassification moves the goalposts so that a facility can comply with the law.

NCRP will be required to report to the state most of its emissions, according to the new permit, except for “sulfuric acid mist.”

During a public hearing earlier this year, community members urged the state to denied the permit. Of the 50 comments received, four of them duplicates, none supported NCRP. The census tracts that abut or contain the power plant are predominantly Black and Native American; the poverty rate is nearly 30%. In addition, Robeson County ranks last in the state for health factors, with higher-than-average rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

However in its response to public comment, the Division of Air Quality said it did not have the authority to deny the permit based on environmental justice issues. There is only one state environmental program — the Division of Waste Management — that can use those considerations to deny or modify a permit, limited to the siting of solid waste landfills.

Just last week, the state Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board discussed the cumulative impacts of pollution on marginalized communities. Although the board has no legal authority, it could ask state lawmakers and DEQ to broaden the scope of environmental justice in permitting decisions beyond landfills.

U.S. Supreme Court hands technical, but potentially important victory to fast-food worker in wage lawsuit

On Monday May 23, the U.S. Supreme Court handed a technical, but potentially important, victory to workers who sue their employers.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a small, but potentially significant, victory to a fast-food worker from Iowa.

The court did not address the basic premise of Robyn Morgan’s lawsuit – that the Taco Bell restaurant she worked for had violated wage-and-hour laws. The court did, however, address a procedural issue that could have major implications for U.S. workers whose employers insist on arbitration to settle disputes that would otherwise be heard in court.

Beginning sometime around 2015, Morgan worked as an hourly employee for a Taco Bell restaurant in Osceola, which was owned by a franchise called Sundance. When applying for the job, Morgan signed an agreement to arbitrate any employment dispute.

In 2018, she filed a nationwide collective action case — a procedure for litigating a multi-plaintiff wage dispute, similar in nature to a class-action lawsuit — against Sundance. She alleged the company violated federal laws regarding overtime by moving some workers’ hours into other pay periods as a way of preventing the employees from being paid for more than 40 hours in any given week.

Sundance initially defended its actions in court, as if no arbitration agreement was in place. But after eight months of litigation, Sundance filed a motion to compel arbitration in the matter.

Morgan’s attorneys opposed the motion, arguing that Sundance had waived its right to arbitrate by litigating for so long. A district court judge agreed and denied Sundance’s motion. The company appealed, and the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court ruling in a split decision.

The appeals court ruled that a party waives its right to arbitration only after three criteria are met: the party knew of the right; then acted inconsistently with that right; and then prejudiced the opposing party through those inconsistent actions.

That third element, requiring the opposing party to be prejudiced or placed at a disadvantage, is not written into the law, but nine circuits had previously found that the Federal Arbitration Act demonstrates a “strong federal policy favoring arbitration” which demands such a showing of prejudice to prove that the right to arbitrate has been waived.

The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals was essentially saying that because Morgan failed to show that her claim was prejudiced, or damaged, by Sundance waiting so long to cite the arbitration agreement as a defense, Sundance had not waived its right to insist upon arbitration.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled otherwise. Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan stated there is no such requirement to show prejudice to prove that the right to arbitration has been waived. Read more

CDC expects more monkeypox cases in the U.S.