CIB 10/10/2016: Political Storm Surges

We update you on environmental campaign news, the latest on Wellwatergate, the Paris climate accord, and more, this week in CIB.

Campaign Watch: Green Storm Breaking in NC; Conservation Votes Reaches the Coast

The most severe hurricane to threaten the East Coast in years hurt southeastern states and brought high winds and flooding to much of eastern North Carolina over the weekend. Recovery and cleanup work will continue this week. Our thoughts will be with those who suffered losses from the storm, as well as those assisting in restoration and repair work.

Meanwhile, with just four weeks to go before the finale of campaign 2016, a political storm continues to build in North Carolina. This Thursday, October 13, two national conservation organizations will sponsor a 48-hour focused fundraising effort called a “GreenStorm in the States” in support of key environment-friendly candidates. In North Carolina, here’s who will be the designated targets for support:

  • Roy Cooper for Governor
  • Josh Stein for Attorney General
  • Mike Morgan for Supreme Court Associate Justice
  • John Ager for NC House District 115
  • Rhonda Cole Schandevel for NC House District 118

NextGen Climate and the League of Conservation Voters Political Engagement Fund are co-sponsors of this effort.

Are you interested in helping to support these critical environment-friendly campaigns? See here for how you can do that this Thursday. (Select North Carolina to see our featured candidates.)

Separately, another NC-specific effort to support one of these key environment-friendly campaigns also expanded last week. On October 6, the Conservation Votes PAC announced that it was expanding its advertising campaign exposing Gov. Pat McCrory’s anti-environment record to the Wilmington media market in coastal North Carolina. The ad “detailing the McCrory Administration’s attempts to let Duke Energy off the hook for poisoning North Carolina drinking water” will run in the Wilmington market October 6-18. See the ad here and the script with backup here.

“For the last four years, Governor McCrory has made it crystal clear whose interests he is working for, and it’s not his constituents,” said Dan Crawford, director of Conservation Votes PAC. “He held closed door meetings with his former employer, Duke Energy, during the height of the coal ash mess. He vetoed one coal ash bill only to put in its place legislation best described as the ‘Duke Energy Protection Act.’ This bill allows the corporate polluter to leave its toxic mess near state waterways, putting the health and safety of North Carolina’s people and natural resources in jeopardy. Hundreds of North Carolina residents already must live on bottled water because of coal ash contamination. Our state cannot afford another four years of corporate cronyism in the Governor’s Mansion.”

Judicial Watch: Stith Dodges the Questions on Wellwatergate

Thomas StithGov. Pat McCrory’s chief of staff, Thomas Stith, made late-night news in August when he summoned the media to an unscheduled evening telephone news briefing. During that briefing, Stith accused state toxicologist Kenneth Rudo of lying under oath in a deposition for a court case over coal ash pollution.

Last week, details of Stith’s own (more recent) deposition in that case came out. Armed with Stith’s public statement regarding Rudo’s alleged lack of veracity, attorneys for citizens suing over coal ash pollution questioned Stith about what he knows relevant to the case. According to the publicly available transcript of Stith’s deposition, he would not repeat under oath the accusation he previously flung publicly at Rudo. Moreover, he refused (on his attorney’s advice) to answer a series of other questions regarding his (Stith’s) own role in or knowledge of communications between the Governor and Duke Energy over coal ash.

Stith’s deposition was taken last month. Its details came to light due to the environmental groups’ latest request to the judge in the case that Stith be ordered to answer their remaining questions.

Under oath, Stith admitted in his deposition that he had not even read the full transcript of Rudo’s testimony before he made the accusation against Rudo on August 2. Stith also admitted under oath that Gov. McCrory had, in fact, called another participant at the meeting with Rudo during that meeting (as the state Toxicologist had asserted).

Based on Stith’s statements under oath, it is unclear what reasonable basis (if any) Stith has for his accusations against Rudo, a widely respected scientist working for the state. What is clear is that Stith and his boss McCrory are sweating hard over continuing public attention to this case.

CIB has dubbed it “Wellwatergate” for two reasons. First, at its heart the dispute revolves around toxic contamination of citizens’ drinking water wells by pollutants contained in coal ash. Second, the current flashpoint of the controversy is the McCrory Administration’s continuing efforts to direct attention away from its political intervention in health warnings sent to citizens whose drinking water was polluted.

Like the original “Watergate” scandal over the burglary of political rivals’ records by operatives of the Nixon Administration, the most damaging aspects of this new scandal to the McCrory Administration may center on “not the crime, but the cover-up.” With just four weeks left before the conclusion of Governor McCrory’s trial by voter, he has to be wishing that all this attention to toxic well pollution and lying to people whose health is at risk would just go away.

Good luck with that wish, Governor. It’s probably not coming true.

Legislative Watch: 2016 Scorecard Pierces the Spin

Two raging controversies (HB 2 and coal ash) slowed the General Assembly’s deliberations enough during the 2016 “short session” that many of the most damaging anti-environmental proposals of the year were left on the table when the legislators finally went home. But we know they’ll be back in 2017—and we have to be ready.

NCLCV Scorecard 2016Part of being ready for 2017 means understanding what did happen at the General Assembly this year. Our NCLCV 2016 Environmental Scorecard helps to tell the tale. The State Senate stacked up a woeful compilation of terrible votes, although as usual the environment had champions there who did their best to stand up for clean air, water, land, and public health.

Shockingly, for the first time in the 16-year history of our Environmental Scorecard, the State House did not have enough quality environmental votes of record to create a fair picture of representatives’ environmental stands. Thus, there are no House scores for 2016. On the other hand, a separate section of the report is dedicated to scoring the McCrory Administration’s environmental performance.

Two themes stand out in describing the year’s problems in Raleigh:
Slow Demise of Our Environment, Peeling Off One Protection Act at a Time
More Sweetheart Deals for Duke Energy

Go here for all the details: Scorecard 2016.

Climate Change Update: Paris Accord Takes Effect

The global efforts to reign in the stampeding progress of climate change hit a major milestone last week. Enough nations, representing a large enough share of the total global emissions of greenhouse gases, have now formally signed onto the Paris Accord crafted last year. The terms of that international agreement to cut the carbon emissions driving climate change have now been activated.

The official effective date will be November 4.

Coming just four days before the conclusion of the American presidential and Congressional elections, this celebratory moment will hammer an exclamation point onto the stakes in this campaign. If our nation elects the right candidates this time, we have a fighting chance to contain climate disaster. If not, all the progress we’ve made will start unraveling as a new president and Congress repudiate the Paris Accord and the other work that has begun—and time will run out for future generations.

Just in case anyone doesn’t get it yet, there it is: Our world’s future is literally on the line in this election.

Education & Resources: Vote Protection Training

Finally, this week, we call your attention to one more important way you can help to promote positive outcomes in these elections.

Learn how to be a vote protector in order to watch for illegal voter intimidation or suppression efforts; how to report them for action; and help to ensure that everyone’s vote will count.

Here’s the link to more information, including registration. Trainings begin today (Monday, October 10), sponsored by Democracy North Carolina.

That’s our report for this week.

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