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CIB 8/4/2014

State legislators failed to act on coal ash pollution, plus other news, this week in CIB:

Legislative Watch: Legislators Head Home as Coal Ash Deal Collapses

Both the NC House and Senate last week called an end to the off-year legislative budget session without taking action to deal with the urgent problem of coal ash pollution.

Negotiations continued until late in the week in an attempt to reach a deal between the chambers on their conflicting versions of SB 729, the Coal Ash Management Act. Those attempts came to an abrupt and rancorous halt in disputes among the Senate and House negotiators shortly before the Senate adjourned.

In reacting to the General Assembly’s failure to act on coal ash pollution, NCLCV governmental relations director Dan Crawford said, “We find it very disturbing that on the eve of the six month anniversary of the third largest coal ash spill in American history, we still don’t have a cleanup plan in place to keep this from happening again in North Carolina. Instead of working together to protect our drinking water from contamination, our lawmakers are caving to corporate polluters and squabbling over who takes the blame.”

The exact sequence of events leading to the breakdown of negotiations remains somewhat unclear. Published reports indicate that the breaking point involved an attempt by some of the negotiators to clarity the definition of so-called “low risk” coal ash ponds not subject to key cleanup requirements. In any event, the failure of negotiations to address this serious problem cannot reflect well on the leadership of either House Speaker Thom Tillis or Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

Neither of those legislative leaders can claim that they don’t know how North Carolinians feel about their failure. In just two days last week, NCLCV connected over 3,000 voters in North Carolina directly to the offices of Tillis and Berger through a phone campaign demanding action on this issue. That impressive calling effort came immediately after the release of a statewide poll showing that more than 75% of North Carolinians, across party lines, believe that the legislature has not made Duke Energy do enough to clean up its coal ash spill and pollution.

In their adjournment resolution, the chambers agreed to come back briefly in mid-August to deal with any vetoes by the governor. However, completion of work on coal ash and some other issues that were supposed to be priorities this year will wait until November, after the elections. It appears that the future of North Carolina waters threatened by coal ash pollution will remain unresolved until at least then.

For more information on NCLCV’s efforts to inform the public and encourage these legislative leaders to act with accountability on coal ash, see here.

In addition to its glaring failure on coal ash pollution, the General Assembly last week finalized its off-year budget amendments. It also took another parting shot or two at some of the state’s key clean water protection rules. With the dust still clearing from the session’s confusing and unsatisfying conclusion, we’ll plan to take another look next week at environmental fallout from the 2014 “short” (ha!) session.

Administrative Watch: Fracking Rules Sent to Public Hearings

The NC Mining and Energy Commission (MEC), the regulatory body empowered by the state legislature to oversee the regulation of fracking in our state, has sent its primary slate of initial rules out to public hearing and comment. The formal public comment period opened July 15 and will close September 15. Included in the comment period will be four in-person hearings: August 20 in Raleigh, August 22 in Sanford, August 25 in Reidsville, and September 12 in Sylva. Click here for further details on the public hearings.

NCLCV staff are working now with other conservation advocates to prepare our own organizational comments on the proposed rules, as well as suggested key points and concerns for other concerned citizens to consider in preparing their own comments.Beginning in next week’s CIB, look for more information on these rules and the critical environmental and public health issues they affect.

Climate Change Update: NCLCV Joins in Action for Clean Power Plan

NCLCV board member Mac Montgomery joined other environmental advocates and local leaders last week in Wilmington to speak out on behalf of strong carbon pollution control action through the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan. In his remarks, Montgomery points out that “Power plants are responsible for 40 percent of the carbon pollution in the United States, our single largest source. Carbon pollution fuels climate change, which triggers more asthma attacks and respiratory disease, worsens air quality, and contributes to more frequent, destructive, costly and deadly extreme weather events. The Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks and 6,600 premature deaths annually by 2030.”

Montgomery further noted that EPA’s Clean Power Plan will “drive innovation in clean energy sources” which grow the economy and create jobs. Overall, he points out, “The Clean Power Plan has public health and climate benefits estimated at $55-95 billion per year by 2030, far outweighing the costs. From the soot and smog reductions alone, each dollar invested in the Clean Power Plan could net American families $7 in health benefits.”

Last week’s event in Wilmington was sponsored by the group Climate Parents and also featured remarks from other organizations including the NC Coastal Federation, as well as local elected officials. It was timed to coincide with similar events around the nation in support of the new EPA rules. For more coverage of the Wilmington event, see here andhere. EPA is accepting comments on its rules through October 16.

Conservationists: Fred Stanback Named to NCWF Conservation Hall of Fame

The NC Wildlife Federation (NCWF) announced last week that it will induct Fred Stanback of Salisbury into its Conservation Hall of Fame when it holds its annual Governor’s Conservation Awards banquet in September. The group said that “long-time environmental philanthropist and conservation advocate” Stanback will receive this “special honor bestowed upon only a select few in history.” Stanback has previously received NCWF’s highest annual award, “Conservationist of the Year”, in 2005.

No one can doubt Fred Stanback’s active and powerful commitment to a clean and green North Carolina. He has been one of NCLCV’s strongest supporters throughout our organization’s history as well. Congratulations Fred!

That’s our report for this week.

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