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."