In-depth reporting on NC's looming offshore drilling fiasco

Coastal Review is rolling up its sleeves to cover all the bases:

This is the first of more than 40 stories that we will publish over the next two months on offshore drilling and its potential effects on the N.C. coast. In our most ambitious reporting project, seven reporters have spent several months talking to dozens of people trying to determine what drilling might mean to the state’s coastal environment, economy and lifestyle.

We’ll run the results of all that reporting on alternate weeks, starting this week with stories about the history of drilling in North Carolina, the geology of the Atlantic Ocean and why oil or gas might be out there, the federal process that manages offshore drilling and the politics in Raleigh that are promoting it.

We'll try to bring these installments to our readers here at BlueNC, but since that's over a year-and-a-half's-worth of articles, we may miss a few. I'd also like to issue a fair warning to the rest of the news media: Much of the information provided to them, especially from the Governor's office, will be heavily tainted by industry lobbyists. Not only do you need to double- and triple-check the data, you also need to expose the relationship that produced that tainted data:

“It would be alarming I think for many people if they found out that some of the biggest polluters were running a governors group, but less so if it’s a nonprofit,” said Nick Surgey, director of research at the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal advocacy group. “That one step removed stops the alarm bells going off, but it should really concern people.”

There’s been little effort to explain CEA’s relationship with the coalition, which is currently chaired by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. The coalition’s website made no mention of CEA until recently, when one page was edited — after the Center began reporting this article — to acknowledge the organization provides “information and administrative support.” In March, when the Center first asked who staffs the coalition, Ryan Tronovich, a spokesman for McCrory, said the governors provide the staff (records show Tronovich actually consulted with CEA to answer the Center’s questions). When the Center asked again after learning of CEA’s involvement, Tronovich said in an email that he “should have been more clear,” and compared CEA’s help to that given by an intern. (The Republic Report, an investigative news website, first reported a possible connection with CEA in February when it noted that a coalition letter appeared to have been written by Joubert.)

Earlier this month, the McCrory administration organized a meeting with federal officials to discuss Atlantic drilling; no other governors were there, but staff representing the governors of South Carolina and Virginia did attend. McCrory administration staffers told journalists and environmental organizations that the meeting was closed to interest groups so as not to “allow for the potential of the appearance of influence.” In fact, CEA and other industry groups did attend the meeting. Nadia Luhr, the legislative counsel for the North Carolina Conservation Network, wrote a letter to the administration protesting the circumstances of the meeting. She had not previously been aware of CEA’s role in the coalition, but indicated she wasn’t surprised.

“It’s just another example,” she said, “of industry having a voice where no one else does.”

This article was published last November in Time Magazine, which is just one more example of national news orgs reporting things that many local/state NC news outlets overlook, or are simply too skittish to publish. If it were merely lying politicians, that absent reporting would be bad enough. But when you have billion-dollar fossil fuel front groups controlling the Governor's strings, we're not just talking about propaganda streams, we're talking about the subversion of democracy. There is no bigger story than that, no stronger mandate for reporting. And no larger failure if it's not reported.

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Comments

Tainted data and wishful thinking

A perfectly toxic combination:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/08/us/firm-in-california-oil-spill-called-a-rupture-unlikely.html?_r=0

LOS ANGELES — A Texas company whose ruptured pipeline created the largest coastal oil spill in California in 25 years had assured the government that a break in the line, while possible, was “extremely unlikely” and that state-of-the-art monitoring could quickly detect possible leaks and alert operators, documents show.

Nearly 1,200 pages of records, filed with state regulators by Plains All American Pipeline, detail a range of defenses the company established to guard against crude oil spills and, at the same time, prepare for the worst should a spill occur.

What I don't understand:

How can rank-and-file Conservatives, who claim to be deeply concerned with government accountability and responsiveness to the electorate, completely ignore the undue influence being wielded by fossil fuel lobbyists?

It's okay for a handful of billionaires to control our government, but it's not okay when other special interest groups, that represent the rights and desires of hundreds of thousands of citizens, try to engage in the public policy realm. It boggles the mind, and it also makes it impossible to impart even a shred of respect for their positions. And they have the gall to accuse Progressives of "groupthink" and other lame connections to stereotypical Communism talking points. You get more common sense out of a pre-schooler.

$$$$$$$$

"How can rank-and-file Conservatives, who claim to be deeply concerned with government accountability and responsiveness to the electorate, completely ignore the undue influence being wielded by fossil fuel lobbyists?"

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Bingo

They're ideologues for sure, but ideology goes out the window when presented with mountains of cash from Duke Energy and the Kochs.

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"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

The politicians, for sure

But I was mainly talking about GOP voters, and/or the Constitution-waving Tea Party types. Aside from a few of their leaders, they're not getting a dime from the fossil fuel industry, but they're still as loyal as lap-dogs.

Gotcha

and you're quite right. They foam at the mouth while yelling "Drill baby drill!"

And they won't connect the dots when their electricity bill goes up to pay for coal ash containment, and the red counties of Lee and Chatham will continue to complain about the poison being dumped in their backyard -- but almost certainly continue to vote for Republicans and foam at the mouth while yelling "Drill baby drill!".

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"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

I'm not so sure about

GOP voters/Tea Party Types. Obama threw a hammer in the fan when he got on board with his adminstration's approval. If Obama had been adamantly opposed, the GOP/Tea would have been just that much more in favor.

Now, the hypocrites, surfers, sun worshipers and Republican real estate, tourism and business interests are having an epiphany on how this will impact their lives both financially and recreationally.

That old saying so commonly heard: "I was for it until I was against it" always rings true.

Hmmm. Maybe we should

get Obama to really push offshore drilling in his next news conference...

Reverse psychology stopped working on my kids by the 2nd Grade or so, but methinks it would still be effective with the Teabillies.

Good one!

When I first read that Obama was getting on board, I nearly choked on a cup of coffee. It's hard to understand with the vast amount of energy being produced by the U.S. at present, that Obama would sort of spit in environmentalists (voters) faces on this issue. Nevertheless, this will be a divisive issue for sure. I'm reminded of Orange Beach, Alabama and Fort Morgan State Park. Crawling up a fortress wall, there's nothing but ocean and oil platforms in view.

I'm guessing Front Street in Beaufort will be bulldozed next to make room for a refinery. If you know any worldwide markets for oil balls that wash up on the beach, this appears to be both a ground floor and potentially lucrative opportunity.