The 4,658-acre tract is owned by Spring Creek Farms LLC, which is registered in Illinois, according to Pamlico County tax records. About 250 acres on the south side of State Road 1324 have been cleared, a fact acknowledged last month by Abel Harmon of Hydeland Construction & Consulting in Swanquarter, who is working on the project. Farming could begin any time after the land clearing is completed, Harmon said in late September.
Not only do these wetlands provide a habitat for a wide range of local and migrating species, they also serve as a natural water filter to absorb toxins and nutrients. By turning these wetlands into agricultural tracts, you're taking away that filter and introducing even more toxins and nutrients via pesticides and fertilizers. Not good, to say the least. What's even more frustrating about this issue is the fact that once you've drained the wetlands, DENR no longer considers them wetlands anymore, and refuses to take action:
With DENR reducing employment in divisions responsible for permitting, our first fear is that the permit granting process will be slowed. For many years, business leaders and developers complained that DENR failed to process permit applications quickly enough. In previous sessions, legislators increased staffing and trimmed procedures to speed permit decisions.
If permit approval slows because there are fewer employees to do the work, we fear that both investments and jobs will be lost.
When the Legislature did its "listening tour" a few years ago, the number one complaint from business leaders was the amount of time it took to get permits issued from DENR. Tales of a six-month wait, or in some cases a year or more, were brought to light. And how do Republicans respond? By cutting back on the number of permitting agents. So much for "business-friendly" politicians. Just like the regulators themselves, those business leaders are merely pawns in the GOP's drive to destroy DENR.
To that end, the grant would have allowed North Carolina to develop a network of sites to test streams and survey wildlife before and after fracking occurs. The “before” is critical – having a thorough baseline of data would help the state better document issues that might be linked to fracking.
What will happen instead? Division of Water Resources director Tom Reeder says there still will be testing at fracking sites, because N.C. law requires it. But the law, which was drawn up by a Republican-led legislature, doesn’t require the thoroughness of testing that the EPA grant would have provided. In fact, the law even lets the testing be done by the companies that will perform the fracking. That’s not the kind of comfort we have in mind.
I actually heard Tom Reeder say that drillers would do testing before fracking begins, in a News14 story in the last few days. Trying to find it now, and will update diary when I do. Until then, here are a few questions for lawmakers: are you going to let potential Welfare recipients drug test themselves at home, and trust their findings afterward? Is the NC Bar going to allow aspiring attorneys to take the Bar exam at home, and tell you if they passed? Why would you allow a company that could expose itself to millions in damage do their own baseline water quality testing? It defies logic.
John Skvarla, the fox in charge of the DENR henhouse, already told us that he had a "new mission" in mind for his agency's water quality division.
Now we see more clearly what that new mission is: completely ignore water quality issues. If water becomes polluted, we'll stick our heads in the sand. Because we wouldn't want to know about any harm that Skvarla's corporate profiteer buddies are doing to the environment in their quest for more almighty dollars.
North Carolina applied for a federal grant to monitor water quality that might be poisoned by fracking. The grant was approved.
In the latter piece, you attacked DENR for designating leadership positions as exempt from the state personnel act and misled residents trying to understand the important changes we are making to the way state government works...
By reviewing rules through the lens of scientific data and regulatory experience, we can make responsible choices that help residents without sacrificing the environment.
How can you review rules "through the lens of scientific data and regulatory experience" when you're turning exactly those same positions into political ones, meaning those scientists and regulators will likely be replaced by political hacks like yourself?
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.
This inevitably will have serious consequences. When air and water are fouled, they can be ruined for good. When health regulations are reduced, safety can be also. It is always better to be cautious than reckless when it comes to regulating. And it’s chilling to think that state employees, loyal employees, now can be fired – for doing their jobs.
It is chilling. It's one thing to put pressure on desk-jockeys, but it's quite another thing to take an official who is responsible for the hands-on implementation and oversight of both state and federal statutes dealing with health and safety, and try to bend that person to your political will. It's more than just unfair to the regulator, who will soon find him- or her-self in an untenable position. It's downright dangerous to the people who believe they are protected by those statutes.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and its employees have been a target of Republican complaints for years. McCrory made 167 DENR employees exempt from civil service protections – up from 24, the number the Office of Human Resources reports Perdue having in October.
The new exemptions reach below the division directors and into the regional offices where employees make decisions about some permits and fines. Even the state geologist is now an at-will employee.
This is more than just being able to secure a cushy job for a pal, or even to exert your influence over permit-issuing regulators to keep campaign donors happy. Instead of going through the legitimate yet difficult process of changing environmental laws and regulations, Republicans will now be able to do an end-run around these laws simply by replacing those who have the audacity to enforce them. And it's also about settling some old scores:
When you want to know what Mitt really thinks, you get him before a bunch of big donors ("47%"). When you want to know what John Skvarla, NC DENR Secretary, really thinks, you get him in front of the John Locke Foundation.
This article is frightening. Layoffs at DENR, "turning the place upside down", "Everything we do in DENR has to involve some consideration of economics", "We don't want the most severe [fracking] rules" ...
and my personal (ahem) favorite:
"If we got wet gas [ethane, propane, butane], then Katy bar the door ... It could be the panacea from heaven"
Yeah, John, or it could be Pandora's box from hell.
Put more bluntly, if those employee aren't doing what the governor and his appointees want, they get sacked. It's a deeper intrusion of politics into the bureaucracy than has previously been allowed. Most worrisome is that many of those employees losing protection are in the ranks of DENR managers and directors - about 150 of them. Exposing more of this state's environmental managers and regulators to political pressure may threaten the air and water quality that are keys to our tourism industry and a powerful lure bringing new residents and industries to North Carolina.
Having a clean and fertile environment is not just important for the health of the people and wildlife in North Carolina, it's a state asset that brings in billions in revenues each year. Trading that asset for the short-term revenues associated with offshore drilling and inshore fracking is questionable at best, and doing so while putting political pressure on regulators only serves to answer that question. And it's not a good answer.
The two lawsuits filed in Mecklenburg and Wake counties Friday cite groundwater pollution at all 12 of the plants and illegal seepage from ash ponds at most of them. Among them are Allen on Lake Wylie in Gaston County and Marshall on Lake Norman in Catawba County. The suits say ash violations, if not corrected, “pose a serious danger to the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state of North Carolina and serious harm to the water resources of the state.”
On the surface this seems to be a good thing, but the across-the-board nature of these filings raises some questions. Will the court be asked to look at the problem as an "average", where relatively clean sites make the dirty ones seem less so? Or is this move merely preemptive in nature, to keep others from filing suits:
BlueNC is a labor of love. Views expressed by any particular community member are simply that: the views of that particular member. If you have questions or concerns about the content you see here, please contact us.