Daily dose: No sea level rise allowed here

NC should move with nature on coast (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The sea invading North Topsail Island illustrates the need for planning and rules that allow for rising seas and more powerful storms.



Despite a Lack of NC Cases, Ebola Prep Chugs Along (N.C. Health News) -- For several weeks this past fall, it seemed everyone was focused on the Ebola virus. Members of the media wrote countless articles, people argued on social media sites about quarantine and state and federal health officials held weekly press conferences. Then, it seems, Ebola dropped off the map. … At a conference in mid-December, Jennifer MacFarquhar, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health and Human Services, compared the ongoing preparation for a possible case of Ebola to a swimming duck: calm on the surface but working furiously below the waterline. Since October, North Carolina officials have had 242 consultations on Ebola with clinicians around the state and tracked dozens of people returning to the state from areas in West Africa where Ebola is epidemic. “We’re doing a lot of the same stuff, because we have to keep updating everything and make sure it stays current as our federal guidance gets adjusted and the global situation changes,” said state epidemiologist Megan Davies.


ECU student picked for military neurosurgery program (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- An East Carolina University medical student is the lone neurosurgical resident selected to serve in the United States military’s neurosurgery residency program.


Winston-Salem hires firm for crime lab services (AP) -- Delays at North Carolina's state crime laboratory have grown so bad that Winston-Salem city officials are hiring a private company to test alcohol and drug evidence.


N.C. jobless to receive added weeks of benefits (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The new year has brought an extra week of unemployment insurance benefits to new claimants in North Carolina. Starting today, qualified claimants can receive a maximum of 15 weeks and a minimum of eight weeks, based on the sliding scale that became part of the state’s UI law in July 2013. The sliding scale reduces or raises the maximum and minimum number of weeks by every 0.5 percentage point change in the unemployment rate until the rate drops to 5 percent, at which time there would be a maximum of 12.


Tillis, Burr face unique challenges as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill (WNCN-TV) -- By Tuesday, North Carolina will have two senators, each from the same party and each members of the party in control of the Senate, as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill and those elected in November take the oath of office. Among the freshman senators is Republican Thom Tillis, who won a heated Senate race against Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. Meanwhile, as a senior senator, Richard Burr will become the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Meredith College Political Science Professor David McLennan said eyes will be on Tillis to see how he aligns himself with the Republican leadership in the Senate.


Obama, Senate GOP to test new relationship (CNN) -- Many Republicans say the party has something to prove. New Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the mark of a functional Congress is sending measures to Obama’s desk that the President actually signs into law — citing Keystone and regulatory legislation as possibilities.


Dems' 2016 Senate Hopes Turn on 3 Candidates (National Journal) -- Democrats sound confident that they can retake the Senate in just two short years. But to do that, they need top-flight recruits; and in three of 2016's most important battleground states, their wish list starts and stops with a single candidate. In North Carolina, Democrats are publicly and privately pleading with outgoing Sen. Kay Hagan to run again. In Wisconsin, party insiders are buzzing at the prospects of former Sen. Russell Feingold returning to action. And in New Hampshire, Democratic leaders are declaring that Gov. Maggie Hassan is their first-choice nominee for the Senate.


Judge candidates’ free-speech rights at issue before court (Washington Post) -- Justices will consider whether Florida’s ban on directly soliciting contributions holds water.


North Carolina Economy To "Hit A Stride" In 2015 (WUNC-FM) -- All economic indicators show continued growth across North Carolina in 2015. Mike Walden is the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist at NC State. He predicts payroll job growth across the state could top 125,000 jobs in 2015 – that's a lot more growth than in 2014. Walden says the economy has finally began to “hit a stride” with modest housing recovery and labor market improvements.


NC leaders start 2015 with economic outlook meeting (WRAL-TV) -- Hundreds of business leaders from across North Carolina convened in Research Triangle Park to hear from experts in the fields of business, government, education and nonprofits about their predictions for the economy in 2015.


Cumberland board gets briefing on chicken plant incentives (AP) -- The Cumberland County commissioners are deciding whether they want to consider incentives for a Sanderson Farms chicken plant that could employ almost 1,000 workers.


NC beach town to open annual bow hunt for deer (AP) — The annual effort to control the number of deer on an increasingly populated North Carolina barrier island is about to begin.


Martin starting 8-year term as N.C. chief justice (AP) -- The top judge on North Carolina's highest court is taking his oath of office for a new eight-year term.


Local agency holds conference on gang problem (The Robesonian) -- With gangs becoming an increasing problem in communities throughout the state, including in Robeson County, Eastpointe is holding its ninth annual Eastern North Carolina Gang Conference on Monday in Mount Olive. This year’s theme is “Violence, Gangs, Human Trafficking: a Call for Community Action.” The event, which will include numerous workshops led by law enforcement officials well versed in gangs and gang-related activities, is scheduled to be held at the University of Mount Olive from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $10 for each participant. Agencies partnering with Eastpointe to sponsor the conference include the Eastern North Carolina Gang Investigators Association; U.S. Attorney’s Office; U.S. Marshal’s Service; and numerous local law enforcement agencies.


Inside Politics: Spring Lake Mayor Rey planning run for Lt. Gov. (Fayetteville Observer) -- One of the rumors circulating in political circles here and in Raleigh is that Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey plans to run for lieutenant governor in 2016. … With his deep connections to the Democratic Party and to Washington, Rey has been widely expected to seek higher office since his first run for mayor in 2011. His campaign brought the tactics of a statewide or national election to a small town and he took 76 percent of the vote over a 10-year incumbent.


Sheriff's office K-9s getting ballistics vests (Wilson Times) -- Wilson County sheriff’s canines will be sporting new protective gear thanks to a nonprofit organization and Virginia resident.


City plays host to national conference on rural economy (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- The city of Rocky Mount and the Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences will join Art-Force Inc. this spring to host one of three national conferences to promote economic development and well-being in rural communities.


NCEast Alliance, regional ‘players’ to meet Tuesday (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Leaders of eastern North Carolina’s enlarged 26-county business recruitment agency will meet with area county managers and economic developers this week for the first time since last month’s announced merger of two regional economic development agencies.



Sports world mourns the loss of longtime ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Stuart Scott, the popular ESPN sportscaster who graduated from the University of North Carolina and worked early in his journalism career at a Raleigh television station, died on Sunday morning after a protracted battle with cancer. He was 49.


ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, 49, dies of cancer (AP) -- Stuart Scott was in his element, working a "Monday Night Football" game, when he was forced to leave for an appendix operation. Doctors discovered a tumor during surgery and Scott was diagnosed with cancer. But he made a point of continuing to live his life — at work and outside of it.



NC may switch all high school students to 10-point grading scale in fall (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Amid lobbying from superintendents and families, state education leaders are reconsidering not allowing current high school students to take advantage of a new 10-point grading scale that will make it easier to receive higher grades.


Online, Size Doesn't Matter (Inside Higher Ed) -- Adding students to sections has no impact on outcomes, according to a large national study.


Home Schooling: More Pupils, Less Regulation (New York Times) -- Known for one of the strictest home-school laws in the nation, Pennsylvania has relaxed some requirements, and that has brought it to the forefront in a lobbying war.


Redistricting meetings slated (Jacksonville Daily News) -- The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on school redistricting in Onslow County at two community meetings this week, according to a release by Onslow County Schools.


A smart idea: Wake could open its own charter schools (Raleigh News & Observer editorial) -- The Wake school system wants to open its own charter schools. Lawmakers should approve.


Rethink how to count students who leave (Fayetteville Observer) -- School districts have complained that the formula for calculating their dropout rates is unfair.


Charter schools (Greenville Daily Reflector editorial) -- State law until 2011 held publicly funded but privately run charter schools to just one in each North Carolina county.



New EPA rules unlikely to impact NC coal ash pits (AP) — New coal ash regulations issued by the Obama administration last month are not expected to greatly impact North Carolina, where the state law passed in the wake of February's massive Dan River spill generally exceeds the federal requirements.

Lee commissioners poised to oppose Duke’s coal ash plan (Sanford Herald) -- The Lee County Board of Commissioners is set to take formal action Monday against Duke Energy's plan to store up to 8 million tons of coal ash in Lee County in the coming years. The board will vote on a resolution opposing this plan during its regular meeting, which begins at 4 p.m. Monday at the Lee County Government Center at 106 Hillcrest Drive in Sanford. This action follows the Chatham County commissioners' approval of a similar resolution on Dec. 15. The Chatham County board voted unanimously to oppose the disposal of up to 12 million tons of coal ash in that county. “I think we finally feel like we're at a place where we need to make a statement as far as the position we're taking,” Lee Commissioner Tim Sloan said.


Lee County officials to oppose Duke coal ash disposal (AP) - Lee County commissioners plan to voice their opposition against Duke Energy Corp.'s plan to fill open-pit clay mines used by the brick industry with millions of tons of coal ash. The commissioners say they expect approval Monday of a resolution against the utility's plan to store up to 8 million tons of coal ash in Lee County in coming years. Chatham County's commissioners passed a similar resolution last month against the disposal of up to 12 million tons of coal ash in that county.



North Carolina: Sunshine state of the southeast (Greensboro News & Record) -- North Carolina ranked third in the nation in solar power installations in 2013


Do New Solar Rules for NC Allow for ‘Slow-Walking’ Contracts? (Public News Service) -- As North Carolinians rang in the New Year, state regulators released long-anticipated rules for solar power in the state. Solar developers wanted expanded eligibility for contracts, and utilities proposed measures that would limit access. The state Utilities Commission rejected both proposals and kept the basic framework for solar the same. Legal counsel with NC WARN, John Runkle, says the issue at hand is the real value of solar is not being recognized, and the rules allow Duke Energy to ‘slow-walk” contract and interconnection negotiations. "A contract might take six months, eight months, nine months," he says. "It's a pretty well understood technology. As much money as you want to spend on solar, there's someone willing to put up a good solid solar system for you."


Serious Pipeline Battle Brewing in the Shenandoah Valley (Public News Service) -- Hundreds of Shenandoah Valley landowners are refusing to let Dominion survey for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The power company is suing about 50 property owners and says it will sue more. Community organizers say the majority of landowners on the route in Augusta and Nelson Counties are refusing to give surveyors access to their land. Dominion has said it plans to take nearly 180 of them to court. Nancy Sorrells is co-chair of the Augusta County Alliance, a landowners group formed to oppose the pipeline. "It's a huge groundswell of community support against the pipeline," says Sorrells. "I served eight years as an elected official and I've never, ever seen such a coming together of the community."


Meetings set on gas pipeline through NC, other states (AP) -- Energy companies that want to build a natural gas pipeline through three states plan to hold public meetings on the project this week in North Carolina. The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run 550 miles from West Virginia, through Virginia and end in North Carolina. A consortium of energy companies led by Dominion Resources Inc. is holding public meetings on Tuesday in Fayetteville, Wednesday in Smithfield and Thursday in the Northampton County town of Jackson. Other meetings are being held in Virginia and West Virginia this month


Law firm agrees to represent landowners in pipeline cases (Waynesboro News Virginian) — Homeowners who don’t want to let Dominion Resources survey their property for the planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline route now can hire a lawyer for free. The Norfolk-based law firm of Waldo & Lyle announced last week that it will represent people in the case, for no charge.


Expect nonstop energy drama in 2015 (Politico) -- This year should be one of the most ambitious in energy and climate policy.


The Great "Re-hitching" of a Wetlands (Coastal Review) -- Soon the N.C. Coastal Federation will begin the final phase of its massive wetlands restoration project at North River Farms by planting 300,000 trees.


Lake James State Park Is N.C. 2014 Park Of The Year (N.C. Political News) -- Lake James State Park in Burke and McDowell counties has been named the North Carolina 2014 State Park of the Year by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.


A Race for Smart Home Command Centers (Wall Street Journal) -- A flood of connected household gadgets is finally reaching consumers, raising a high-stakes question: Who will control them?



Better prospects above us than under our feet (Fayetteville Observer) -- Debates over allowing and regulating the hydraulic fracturing process to search for natural gas in North Carolina drew a furor last year.


Mountains to Sea: Cheers to finishing our greatest hiking path (Winston-Salem Journal) -- North Carolina’s Mountain-to-Sea trail is ambitious – for those who want to create it, those who want to map it out and especially those who want to hike it. We’re proud to see the planning and execution of this trail making progress, for it will help preserve our natural beauty and bring in tourism dollars.


N.C. needs realistic, effective strategy to manage effects of sea-level rise (Wilmington Star-News) -- The good news is that Southeastern N.C. looks to see the least impact from changing sea levels over the next three decades.


Laura Crumpler: Help abused children (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Thanks to Dr. Ben Alexander for a powerful and beautifully written piece on abused and neglected children.


We should be broadening the economic pie (Wilmington Star-News column) -- Fundamentally, there has been too much rhetoric and, in some cases, vitriol around competing economic interests.


NC should move with nature on coast (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The sea invading North Topsail Island illustrates the need for planning and rules that allow for rising seas and more powerful storms.