Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gov. Elect McCroy begins to assemble new administration

The new governor, Pat McCroy, has begun to make appointments to his new administration, which will begin when he takes office on January 5.

Of environmental interest is the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). McCroy has announced that John Skvarla of Pinehurst, currently the CEO of Restoration Services. Skvarla has said, according to a story in the News & Observer, that he is anxious to move the needle back from what he sees as over-regulation toward what he promises will be a middle ground that protects the environment without hindering economic growth.

The McDowell News reported that NC House member Mitch Gillespie of McDowell County will become an Assistant Secretary of DENR. Gillespie, in 2011, literally drew a bull's-eye on the window of his legislative office aimed at the DENR offices.

According to the McDowell News, Lou Zeller, executive director of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), said that the selection of Gillespie was "very bad news". “He seems to have an ax to grind,” said Zeller. “His lead in gutting the state air toxics program revealed his animus against regulations which protect public heath. He said then that he had ‘not even scratched the surface.’ Putting him at DENR will allow him to do what he could not get done in the General Assembly; that is, further the extreme elevation of private property rights over public health.

Pat McCrory will take office on January 5. However, Gillespie is expected to be sworn in to his new term on January 9 and to resign shortly after that to take the DENR post.

Read more here:

Friday, November 30, 2012

More on Decreasing Cost of Solar

In a post on March 2, 2012, the rapidly decreasing cost of solar power was reported.

There is additional evidence that the cost of solar power is decreasing. We now have a report from the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Tracking the Sun, an annual report of the cost of solar power.

According to the report, the average cost of a utility scale (2 MW or larger) solar system in 2011 was $3.4/watt. Systems larger than 10 MW had installed costs of between $2.8/W and $3.5/W.

"These data provide a reliable benchmark for systems installed in the recent past, but prices have continued to decline over time, and PV systems being sold today are being offered at lower prices," Galen Barbose of the Berkeley Lab told Solar Industry Magazine in a recent story about the report.

If the cost of solar power continues to drop, it will become competitive with the purchase of coal, with out a subsidy. That is, a utility will be able to, when the sun is shining, reduce its purchase and use of coal, replacing the output from coal plants with the output from solar plants. Fossil fuels would continue to be used for the time that the sun is not shining, but less would be used.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2012 NC Sierra Club Endorsed Candidates

The North Carolina Sierra Club has made the following endorsements for the election on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Linda Coleman                  Lt. Governor
Roy Cooper                      Attorney General
Janet Cowell                     Treasurer
 NC Supreme Court            
Judge Sam Ervin, IV           
 NC Senate                      District                           
Deb Butler                       9                                   
Dan Blue                         14                                 
Neal Hunt                        15*                                
Sig Hutchinson                15*                                
Josh Stein                       16                                 
Erv Portman                    17                                 
Doug Berger                    18                                 
Floyd McKissick                 20                                 
Ellie Kinnaird                     23                                 
Fletcher Hartsell                36                                 
Daniel Clodfelter               37                                 
Joel Ford                         38                                 
Malcolm Graham               40                                 
Phil Feagan                      47                                 
Martin Nesbitt                   49                                 
John Snow                       50                                 
  NC House                   District                           
Robert Cayton                  3                                   
Angela Bryant                  7                                   
Mark Bibbs                       8                                   
Marian McLawhorn            9
Duane Hall                       11                                 
Emilie Swearingen             19                                 
Jean Farmer-Butterfield     24                                 
Larry Hall                        29                                 
Paul Luebke                     30                                 
Mickey Michaux                31                                 
Rosa Gill                          33                                 
Deborah Ross                   34
Lori Millberg                     35
Yvonne Lewis Holley          38                                 
Darren Jackson                 39                                 
Rick Glazier                      44
Keith Karlsson                  49                                 
Valerie Foushee                50                                 
Deb McManus                   54                                 
Verla Insko                      56                                 
Pricey Harrison                 57                                 
Patty Philips                     63                                 
Martha Alexander             88                                 
Robin Bradford                 92                                 
Cullie Tarleton                  93                                 
Tricia Cotham                   100                                
Beverly Earle                   101                                
Becky Carney                   102                                
Ruth Samuelson                104                                
Susan Fisher                    114                                
Susan Wilson                    115                                
Jane Whilden                    116                                
Chuck McGrady                117                                
Ray Rapp                         118                                
Joe Sam Queen                119                                
 County Commissioners                                                        
Ellen Frost                        Buncombe                      
Terry Van Duyn                Buncombe                      
Holly Jones                      Buncombe                      
David Gannt                     Buncombe                      
Carol Peterson                  Buncombe                      
Michelle Pace Wood           Buncombe                      
Brownie Newman              Buncombe                      
Sally Kost                        Chatham                        
Mike Cross                       Chatham                        
Pat Cotham                      Mecklenburg                   
Trevor Fuller                    Mecklenburg                   
Kim Ratliff                        Mecklenburg                   
Jonathon Barfield              New Hanover                  
Rob Zapple                      New Hanover                  
Bernadette Pelissier           Orange                           
Penny Rich                       Orange                           
Renee Price                     Orange                           
Caroline Sullivan               Wake                             
Betty Lou Ward                Wake                             
James West                     Wake                              

Monday, September 10, 2012

NCLCV's Conservation PAC makes endorsements

The Conservation PAC, a project of the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, announced endorsements for the North Carolina General Assembly. The endorsements are listed below.

In Senate district 15 the PAC made a dual endorsement of both competitors, incumbent Senator Neal Hunt, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Sig Hutchinson. Sen. Hunt broke with his party to vote against fracking. Hutchinson is well known for his conservation and environmental activities.

Thanks to Dan Besse of the NCLCV for the information.

NC Senate
District 5 – Former Senator Don Davis, D-Greene
District 9 – Deb Butler, D-New Hanover
District 14 – Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake
District 15 – Senator Neal Hunt, R-Wake & Sig Hutchinson, D-Wake
District 16 – Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake
District 17 – Erv Portman, D-Wake
District 18 – Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin
District 23 – Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange
District 28 – Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford
District 32 – Sen. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth
District 37 – Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg
District 38 – Joel Ford, D-Mecklenburg
District 40 – Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg
District 46 – John McDevitt, D-Burke
District 49 – Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe
District 50 – Former Sen. John Snow, D-Cherokee

NC House
District 2 – Former Rep. Winkie Wilkins, D-Person
District 5 – Rep. Annie Mobley, D-Hertford
District 7 – Rep. Angela Bryant, D-Nash
District 8 – Mark Bibbs, D-Wilson
District 9 – Rep. Marian McLawhorn, D-Pitt
District 11 – Duane Hall, D-Wake
District 19 – Emily Swearingen, D-New Hanover
District 21 – Rep. Larry Bell, D-Sampson
District 23 – Rep. Joe Tolson, D-Edgecombe
District 24 – Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson
District 27 – Rep. Michael Wray, D-Northampton
District 29 – Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham
District 30 – Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham
District 31 – Rep. Henry M. Michaux, D-Durham
District 33 – Rep. Rosa Gill, D-Wake
District 34 – Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake
District 32 – Nathan Baskerville, D-Vance
District 35 – Lori Millberg, D-Wake
District 38 – Yvonne Lewis Holley, D-Wake
District 39 – Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake
District 40 – Watt Jones, D-Wake
District 41 – Jim Messina, D-Wake
District 42 – Rep. Marvin Lucas, D-Cumberland
District 44 – Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland
District 45 – Eddie Dees, D-Cumberland
District 49 – Keith Karlsson, D-Wake
District 50 – Valerie Foushee, D-Orange
District 54 – Deb McManus, D-Chatham
District 56 – Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange
District 57 – Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford
District 58 – Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford
District 63 – Patty Philipps, D-Alamance
District 65 – William Osborne, D-Rockingham
District 66 – Ken Goodman, D-Richmond
District 88 – Rep. Martha Alexander, D-Mecklenburg
District 93 – Former Rep. Cullie Tarleton, D-Watauga
District 100 – Rep. Tricia Ann Cotham, D-Mecklenburg
District 101 – Rep. Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg
District 102 – Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg
District 106 – Carla Cunningham, D-Mecklenburg
District 114 – Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe
District 115 – Susan Wilson, D-Buncombe
District 116 – Former Rep. Jane Whilden, D-Buncombe
District 117 – Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson
District 118 – Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Madison
District 119 – Former Senator Joe Sam Queen, D-Haywood

Friday, August 31, 2012

Some good news about the Mining and Energy Commission

A couple of weeks ago an article in ConserveNC told of an appointment, by House Speaker Thom Tillis, of a cofounder of NC Oil and Gas to a slot on Mining and Energy Commission reserved for a “member of a nongovernmental conservation interest”.

Now that the Governor’s appointments have been made to the commission, we have at least one member who clearly has an environmental background.

Amy Pickle, Senior Attorney for State Policy with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions of Duke University was appointed by Governor Perdue to the panel. In addition to the work at the Nicholas Institute, she is a member of the Environmental Management Commission. She served as an Assistant Attorney General, working on the hog waste management initiative and as a Senior Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The commission will hold its first meeting on Thursday, September 6, 2012, at 1 p.m. in the ground floor conference room of the Archdale Building. ConserveNC plans to be there. A schedule has not been released for future meetings.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Recent News Stories

Following are some recent news stories that may be of interest:


Drilling board to start work without ethics review

WRAL-TV reported that the Energy and Mining Commission will start meeting in September, but without any consideration by the State Ethics Commission.


Fracking possible in Montgomery County

According to a story in the Montgomery Herald of Montgomery County, NC, fracking is possible in that county in the Southern part of the state east of Charlotte.


Calls grow to replace Tillis appointee to drilling board

WRAL-TV reported that there are increasing calls to replace Ray Covington, who was appointed by House Speaker Thom Tillis to the gas drilling board to a seat meant for a conservationist.



Report: Consumers and public have benefited from NC Clean Smokestacks law

According to a Charlotte Observer blog post, North Carolina's Clean Smokestacks Act, passed in 2002 to reduce pollution from coal fired power plants, will save consumers money and keep the public healthier. The blog post was based on a recent paper from Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and can be found here.


Nuclear Regulatory Commission freezes new licenses

The NRC has stopped issuing licenses for nuclear plants, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal, due to questions about nuclear-waste storage.


Permitting suspended for large coal fired power plant in South Eastern Virginia

The Newport News Daily Press reported the suspension of Old Dominion Electric Cooperative's efforts to obtain the environmental permits needed to build what would be the state's largest coal-fueled power plant in Surry County in South Eastern Virginia.


Solar equipment company to create jobs in NC

According to a story in the Shelby Star, Schletter Inc., a German Company that designs and manufactures solar panel mounting systems, announced plans to purchase a building in Cleveland County (west of Charlotte) as its US headquarters, and that it will create 305 new jobs by the end of 2016.


Solar power growing in Robeson County

A story in the Fayetteville Observer details the growth of the solar industry in Robeson County (in South East NC, containing Lumberton).


North Carolina company develops efficient solar cell

Business Insider reports that a North Carolina company, Semprius (of Durham), has developed a more efficient solar cell. This development could bring down the installed cost of a solar farm due to reduction in labor and mounting equipment.


New efficient wind turbine developed by Raleigh company

WITN-TV of Washington, NC, reported on a new style wind turbine, developed by the Greensky Wind Power Company of Raleigh, which claims its turbine design is smaller and can generate energy at a lower wind speed than traditional designs.


Solar donation to help recovery center

A story in the News and Observer reports that NC WARN contributed and installed solar power and solar water heating for Freedom House, which provides services for people with addiction and mental illness.


Prices for utility scale solar drop

The Charlotte Business Journal reports that the price to build large scale solar projects in NC continues to drop, despite tariffs imposed on low cost Chinese solar panels.



Mountains-to-Sea Trail discussed in Orange County

A story in the News and Observer covered a meeting in Orange County where the pros and cons of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail were discussed.


Poisonous politics in North Carolina, a web publication of Responding to Climate Change, an official observer to the United Nations climate change negotiations, published an article about the recent session of the NC legislature, with quotes from NC Sierra Club director Molly Diggins.


NC 8th worst in air pollution from power plants, according to study

The News & Observer reported that NC is the 8th most state in the nation for pollution from power plants, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The full NRDC report can be found here.


Wake County may purchase more open land

A story in the News & Observer reports on a word session by the Wake County Board of Commissioners that approved staff plans to explore the purchase of more tracts of land for the preservation of open space.


Durham promotes rain gardens for pollution control

According to a story in the News & Observer, Durham is promoting the use of rain gardens in residential yards to reduce the amount of pollutants running into Jordan Lake.


Sea level rise estimates fought in southern states

An Associated Press story, published in the Elizabeth City, NC Daily Advance, tells about the disputes in other states about using scientific sea level data in crafting development regulations.


Governor allows sea level bill to become law

The Wilmington Star News reported that Gov. Perdue allowed the sea level bill, HB 219, to become law without her signature or veto, in spite of significant lobbying from environmental groups who wanted her to veto the bill.


Gov. Perdue signs two other bills opposed by environmental groups.

According to a report on WRAL-TV Gov. Perdue's office announced that she would not veto two bills (she signed the bills) that were opposed by environmental groups. She signed SB 229, which will weaken NC water basin quality program and HB 953, which will delay implementation of the Jordan Lake watershed rules by two years. Molly Diggins, Director of the NC Sierra Club, was quoted.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Controversial Appointment to the Drilling Board

The bill that makes fracking legal in NC, SB820, created an NC Energy and Mining Commission. The law specified how each of the 15 members of the commission was to be appointed.

One of the members was to be appointed by the legislature upon recommendation of the Speaker of the House and to be “a member of a nongovernmental conservation interest”[1]. For this position, House Speaker Thom Tillis appointed Mr. Ray Covington[2].  Mr. Covington does not fit the description specified by the law. He is co-founder of North Carolina Oil and Gas, a business that represents land owners who want their land drilled. On its website, NCOG lists as one of its goals “We want this land drilled”[3]

There is certainly a conflict of interest in this appointment. The commission is supposed to make regulations concerning drilling, and ensure that drilling will not take place unless it can be done safely. Mr. Covington’s business wants land to be drilled and only makes money if land is drilled.

According to Jane Pinsky, director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, "The first rule of ethics and being part of government is that you shouldn't be in a position to benefit personally financially from what you do”.


Press Coverage:
Critics: Sanford businessman doesn't belong on fracking board, WRAL – TV,  7/25/12

Calls grow to replace Tillis appointee to drilling board, WRAL TV 7/25/12


Editorial: Conserved for Fracking? Raleigh News & Observer  7/17/12

Environment advocates: Fracking panel has drill bias, WRAL TV 7/11/12

State's new fracking board leans toward drillers, Raleigh News & Observer 7/13/12

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Governor Perdue will not veto remaining bills

Just in:
Today Gov. Bev Perdue’s office announced that she will not veto any more bills. So the three bills that environmental groups oppose (H819 Coastal Management Policies, SB 229 Amend Environmental Laws 2012, and HB 953 Amend Environmental Laws 2) will become law. Click here for more information about the bills.

Molly Diggins, director of the NC Sierra Club, stated: “We are disappointed that the Governor chose not to veto these bills. All three measures primarily benefit developers at the expense of North Carolina’s taxpayers, who will end up paying more in the long run to deal with the increased costs of failing to address sea level rise as well as water pollution caused by poorly planned development."

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Do Compact Cities Save Energy?

It has often been written that compact, very dense cities consume less energy and produce less pollution that the less dense suburbs and residential areas dominated by single family homes. However, new research shows that may not be true.

Researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Newcastle, and Leeds in the UK published a paper in the spring 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association that showed that the urban form may have very little impact on energy use and sustainability. An article in Atlantic Cities on July 24, 2012 discussed the findings.

One of the authors, Cambridge Prof. Marcial Echenique, told Atlantic Cities: “To our surprise, if you compare the compact form versus the current trend, the difference in reduced transport by automobile is very minor. And if you allow the city to expand, the increase in the use of the car is only marginal.”

Echeniques continued: "If you make the city more compact, it doesn't mean that people will abandon their car. Only 5 percent of people abandon the use of the car. Ninety-five percent carries on using the car, which means there are more cars on the same streets, therefore there is much more congestion and therefore there is much more pollution and no great increase in the reduction of energy."

There are several limitations to the study. It was done in England, and may or may not apply to the United States. Only a limited number of areas were studied. However, this study does raise some important questions for those who want to reduce the use of energy and the production of pollution. Echenique argues, with support from his research, that making cars and buildings more energy efficient may accomplish more.  "Technology offers a much better future than trying to constrain behavior of the market."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Some more bills to veto

Several important bills are still on Governor Perdue's desk awaiting her decision on whether or not to veto them.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fracking Veto Overridden – due to accident and turncoat

The fracking bill, SB 820, is now law. The bill was adopted by the legislature, then vetoed by the governor. As expected, the Senate overrode the veto; but the House was expected, by a very close vote, to uphold the veto. 72 votes were required to pass the bill “notwithstanding the Governor’s objections”. It was expected that there would only be, at the most, 70 votes to pass the bill.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Gov. Perdue vetoes fracking bill

Just in: Governor Bev Perdue vetoes the fracking bill!

With only a few hours before the deadline, Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the fracking bill SB 820. According to news reports, she had been trying to reach a compromise with the General Assembly leadership but was unable to reach any compromise. Gov. Perdue as said in the past that she thinks that fracking can be done safely, but the safeguards must be in place.

Following is her veto statement: