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Editorial: Not fixed? Stop breaking it

The director of North Carolina’s Sierra Club chapter, Molly Diggins, probably put it best: “What Sen. Gunn has proposed is we stop cleanup efforts and indefinitely delay, seeking a magic technological solution to the problem. He was unable to provide a single example that would be a reason to believe there’s a more efficient or less expensive way to do it.” On top of everything else, this bill might also violate federal directives to improve water quality. But this would hardly be the first time during this session that lawmakers in our General Assembly have tried running rogue. Remember that plan for a state religion that would’ve violated the First Amendment?
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Study: Solar benefits outweigh costs in NC

North Carolinians could save $26 million a year if we added 500 megawatts of solar generation according to a study prepared by Crossborder Energy based in Berkley, Ca.

John Downey of the Charlotte Business Journal reported on the release and offered the following:

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DENR Refuses Federal Water Quality Grants

WUNC, North Carolina Public Radio, covered the story of the state's environmental agency rejecting federal grants to do baseline water testing in the state's triassic basin area. From the report: North Carolina environmental officials have said "no" to a federal grant to check water quality in areas where fracking may occur. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources says the money from the EPA would only pay for salaries of people brought in to do testing.
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Release: Baseline Water Testing No Longer In Department’s Mission, DENR Official States

As highlighted in today’s Coastal Review article “State Declines $600k in Federal Grants”, the McCrory administration’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources has turned down two 2013 grants for which it applied, and which were awarded to the state by US EPA. The grants, totaling nearly $600,000, were selected for approval in a competitive application process. The EPA grant program is intended to build the capacity of state agency to effectively address water quality challenges. “This is exactly the time that our state would benefit from the science and research that the grants are intended to support,” said Molly Diggins, state director of the NC Sierra Club. “The McCrory administration has walked away from funding that would help the state to make sound decisions about fracking and water quality.”
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State Declines $600K in Federal Grants

Frank Tursi of the NC Coastal Federation broke the story on Monday Morning that the McCrory administration’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources has turned down two 2013 grants for which it applied, and which were awarded to the state by US EPA. The grants, totaling nearly $600,000, were selected for approval in a competitive application process.  The EPA grant program is intended to build the capacity of state agency to effectively address water quality challenges.

 

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Confirmed: Fracking practices to blame for Ohio earthquakes

From NBC News: Wastewater from the controversial practice of fracking appears to be linked to all the earthquakes in a town in Ohio that had no known past quakes, research now reveals. Before January 2011, Youngstown, Ohio, which is located on the Marcellus Shale, had never experienced an earthquake, at least not since researchers began observations in 1776. However, in December 2010, the Northstar 1 injection well came online to pump wastewater from fracking projects in Pennsylvania into storage deep underground. In the year that followed, seismometers in and around Youngstown recorded 109 earthquakes, the strongest registering a magnitude-3.9 earthquake on Dec. 31, 2011. The well was shut down after the quake.
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Legislators question $1.65 million Jordan Lake spending item

By Andrew Kenney — akenney@newsobserver.com RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory signed a controversial delay of the Jordan Lake clean-up effort last month, but the legislative debate’s not over yet. Two members of the N.C. House of Representatives say a $1.65 million plan to buy anti-algae technology may be designed to benefit a single company, circumventing the public bidding process. The budget provision lays out planned spending for the water-circulating devices that some lawmakers claim will curb algae pollution in the lake. It calls for specifics -- such as “adjustable float arms with a one-inch diameter shaft and turnbuckle,” “Type 316” stainless steel, and polystyrene foam beads to absorb water – that line up in many respects with the features of the SolarBee, a water circulator made by Medora Co., headquartered in North Dakota. In a letter written last week, which was made public Friday, Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Republican from Hendersonville, and Rep. Rick Glazier, a Democrat from Fayetteville, ask state Auditor Beth Wood to review the budget item, which could put dozens of 16-foot-wide circulators in the lake for two years. The representatives question whether the budget item is so specific that it would eliminate some companies whose products don’t, for example, “weigh approximately 850 pounds.” That is the exact weight of Medora’s SB10000HW v18 High Wave mixer – and such detail is a warning sign that the legislation could improperly favor Medora, according to McGrady and Glazier. “The provision reads very much like the terms of a purchase and sale contract,” the letter states. “Further, there is only one company of which we are aware that makes a technology that meets the specifications.”
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A hanging ax over NC air and water regulators

Published: September 3, 2013 - An Editorial from the Raleigh News & Observer Gov. Pat McCrory signaled early on with his now-famous “seat warmers” line about state employees that he planned to get tough on underpaid, often-overworked state workers. Now it appears he’s ready to take on those who do their jobs too well. And if environmental regulators are out of their seats too much, they may find themselves out of their jobs as well. What a transparent exercise in the abuse of power is McCrory’s use of authority granted him by Republicans in the General Assembly to make more state workers “at will” employees. That means they will not have civil service protections against being unjustly fired. This is nothing more than manipulation of the people’s government for the political aggrandizement of the governor and his political cronies. It is quite the strange move from a governor who campaigned against the government he said was corrupted by politics. The governor’s office argues that the governor needs this change to make sure employees are on board with his mission so that he can shape his agenda. Uh, huh. Anyone want to price a bridge in Brooklyn? What’s really going on is evidenced by the fact that, in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the number of at-will jobs is expanding from 24 to 167. DENR has long been a favorite target of Republicans who would like to gut most environmental regulations so business, specifically developers, can do as they wish with coastal property or with other big projects that now have to pass permit muster and comply with 22oversight. Republican lawmakers have tried to legislate regulators right out of their jobs.
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A reckless law on NC regulations

Published: August 28, 2013 No one supports pointless regulations. If regulations exist, there should be a good reason for them, a reason that applies not only to the time of their adoption, but to present circumstances. Regulations that require unnecessary protections or no longer apply do not serve the common good and can become impediments to commerce. This is the sensible premise on which House Bill 74 signed into law last week by Gov. Pat McCrory purports to rest. Its title says as much: “An act to improve and streamline the regulatory process in order to stimulate job creation [and] to eliminate unnecessary regulation.” On signing the bill, the governor repeated the sentiment, saying, “This common sense legislation cuts government red tape, axes overly burdensome regulations and puts job creation first here in North Carolina.” Sounds logical and harmless. Except the bill is not what its title and the governor claim it is. It is illogical and dangerous. It is concessions to developers and polluters crammed into a massive bill that was rushed through the legislature in the crush of closing business.
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Officials OK rule to force fracking on NC landowners

By John Murawski — RALEIGH — North Carolina landowners would be forced to sell the natural gas under their homes and farms – whether they want to or not – under a fracking recommendation approved Wednesday that’s expected to be enacted by the state legislature this fall. The proposal by a state study group endorses a rarely used 1945 law that’s never been tried here on the kind of scale that would be required for shale gas exploration, or fracking. Thousands of property owners could potentially be affected in the state’s gas-rich midsection in Lee, Moore and Chatham counties. The recommendation, dealing with one of the most emotional fracking issues, bypasses the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, which holds regular public hearings on protecting the public and safeguarding the environment, and goes to the legislature. “We are talking about a for-profit industry taking away personal freedoms with the blessing of the government,” Therese Vick, a community activist with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, told the Compulsory Pooling Study Group. “Personal freedoms are seldom on the radar when the gas companies come to town.” The panel does include four members of the Mining and Energy Commission, some of whom were deeply conflicted.
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