NCGA

Environmental heroes: SouthWings patrols the skies

Providing a bird's-eye view of potential environmental threats:

SouthWings collaborates with a range of effective conservation and community partners to increase collective, positive impact on environmental issues. Through the power of a first-hand aerial perspective, SouthWings provides an unparalleled way for funders, partners, and other key decision-makers to understand the most urgent environmental challenges in the Southeast.

At the heart of our work is the commitment of SouthWings’ all-volunteer pilot corps, collectively contributing hundreds of hours of time and resources each year to provide a unique perspective on environmental issues that would otherwise not be possible.

Based in Asheville, these volunteer pilots cover the entire Southeast and some Gulf states, and have spotted problems like dangerous algae blooms and other irregularities in rivers and lakes. But flying isn't cheap, so if you've got some extra cash handy, show them some love.

Parsing the propaganda: Lisa Sorg rips DEQ promotional video

Van der Vaart is in deep trouble:

DvdV: “Hello, I’m Donald van der Vaart, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality. I’m here to talk to you about the action North Carolina has taken to protect the environment, public health, and the communities that have been affected by the long-ignored problem of coal ash.”

NCPW: As DEQ secretary, van der Vaart has the power to allow Duke Energy to miss its deadline to remedy impoundments and coal ash residue. The utility can blow its deadline if for some reason, it can’t use the “best available technology found to be economically reasonable” and it would produce a “serious hardship” without an equal or greater public benefit. Translation: If it’s too expensive.

Among her many other talents, Lisa has an uncanny ability to pull up the rug to see what trash has been swept under it. Hat-tip to NC Policy Watch for bringing her on board:

Coal Ash Wednesday: When science is declared "secret"

Duke Energy's damage control methods are out of control:

Duke Energy is asking a federal judge to make the sworn statements of a state environmental toxicologist off-limits to the public amid an ongoing lawsuit between environmentalists and the energy company over coal ash.

In a motion filed in a North Carolina U.S. District Court Tuesday, Duke Energy argued the deposition of Dr. Kenneth Rudo is "largely hearsay" and that releasing publicly would affect the firm's right to a fair and impartial trial. Company lawyers point to the heavy media attention surrounding coal ash cleanup and contamination, which has drawn the concern of nearby well owners who have received mixed safety advice from the state about their water.

First of all, the public's right to know about contaminated water resources trumps Duke Energy's desire to keep their mistakes hidden. And second, media coverage had absolutely nothing to do with "mixed safety advice" given to affected residents. The amount of influence Duke Energy wields over state government is what caused that mixed advice, another negative consequence of that damage control I mentioned above. And now you can add suborning justice to Duke's "portfolio."

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Apparently charlatanism is a communicable disease:

In all fairness, there's no way in hell she could have written the speech, or possess the skills to Google excerpts to make sure it wasn't plagiarized...

In addition to pollution, Duke Energy now leaking propaganda

Disseminating Koch Brothers' subsidized misinformation:

Coal ash isn’t toxic, in fact it’s harmless, according a new report that Duke Energy has been disseminating this week. But a Carolina Public Press investigation has found serious doubts about the credibility of the report that relies heavily on the statements of one scientist who may have been misquoted or taken out of context.

Claiming that toxicity isn’t a valid a concern hasn’t been an angle the company pursued previously. Carolina Public Press contacted the scientist on whom the article relied for its claims. His response raised questions about the integrity of the reporting in the article from the organization Watchdog.org and why Duke Energy would promote an article with such dubious claims.

Okay, so: "Toxicity" determinations are directly tied to how a chemical or element interacts with a biological organism. You can determine the radioactivity of an element in the absence of such, but toxicity can only be formally mapped by actual damage, a much more difficult process. And since many of these potential toxins do not bioaccumulate, and are eventually expelled from the human body before they can be detected, the "smoking gun" is no longer there to find. This is what (I believe) the researcher in question was trying to convey. But what's more alarming than Duke Energy citing a Watchdog.org article in efforts to whitewash their dirty laundry, are the efforts by state government to bully media outlets into silencing the NRDC:

US DOJ: Voting law changes were race-based

Tracing the origins of voter suppression tactics:

The Justice Department alleged a “race-based purpose” to the new law in a legal brief. Studies the department cited show that minority and low-income voters are more likely to use same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting because they are less likely to own a car or have flexible working hours. These voters are also more likely to vote for Democratic candidates.

"If you pick out precisely the way minority voters are engaging with the process, that's intentionally treating minority voters differently," Justin Levitt, the head of the Justice Department’s voting unit, said in an interview.

There's no doubt the goal of Republicans was to stifle or obstruct potential Dem voters, especially minorities. And it wasn't (isn't) just a Legislative effort; Republican-led county boards of election have shuffled voting sites to add more distance between minority and college students and their authorized voting locations, something Bob Rucho knows good and well but refuses to acknowledge:

Duke Energy parrots squawk about saving people money

Van der Vaart is still confused about what his job really is:

This bill says Duke can seek permission to leave ash where it is, if it repairs dams and reduces other risks at its coal ash basins - something environmentalists oppose.

“The new coal ash law establishes a firm timetable for providing permanent water connections and repairing dams at coal ash ponds,” DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart said in a statement. “It also protects customers by allowing for less expensive methods of closing coal ash ponds that won’t be passed on in the form of higher electricity prices.”

The fact van der Vaart is even talking about economics should scare the bejesus out of people in our state, and it should also be a source of major concern for the General Assembly. But there's little doubt their decision to let go of the Coal Ash Commission was at least partly an effort to suck up to the campaign contribution behemoth known as Duke Energy. It's like watching a couple of academically-challenged football players trying to impress the Homecoming Queen, only less amusing. And the fact this development came just one month after a real scientific assessment exposed the depth and breadth of the problem is even less amusing:

Apodaca the latest to traverse NC's unethical revolving door

Anticipating the pot of gold at the end of the unimpressive legislative career:

Powerful Senate Rules Chair Tom Apodaca announced his resignation from the Senate Friday morning but it wasn’t much of a surprise and he will likely be back in Raleigh soon enough. Rumors surfaced recently that Apodaca was interested in becoming a lobbyist and would resign this month so he’d be able to lobby his former colleagues when the 2017 session begins in January.

State law requires a six month cooling off period before legislators can register to lobby and it’s become more common for lawmakers interested in cashing in to resign halfway through the second year of their term so they can lobby in the next session.

One of the lesser-used definitions of "Corruption" deals with biological necrosis; decay and putrefaction. But it was also the etymological origin of the other, more common usages, because this behavior tends to spread throughout a political organism just like a biological one. Why are retired Legislators so successful at lobbying? Because many current Legislators are eyeing that as a future career option, and helping their former colleagues is an easy way to help themselves a few years down the road. As long as they are effective, those jobs will be waiting for others. This is the crux of the ethical conflict; the perpetuation of undue influence over public policy by private-sector players. And until that revolving door is locked, the cycle of corruption will continue.

McCrory's police cam language right out of Orwell

The Ministry of Truth would be impressed:

Not only did Gov. Pat McCrory sign a bill to block release of police body camera videos to the public, but he justified his decision with misleading doublespeak. “Governor McCrory signs legislation to promote transparency and safety for law enforcement and the public,” trumpets the headline of a news release his office distributed Monday afternoon.

“This legislation fulfills our commitment to protect our law enforcement and gain public trust by promoting uniformity, clarity and transparency,” McCrory said in the release.

When you feel the need to clarify a news story with "This is not the Onion," you just might be living in North Carolina. Sheesh.

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