NC GOP

Polluters and environmentalists in NC form questionable joint lobbying group

Purportedly to better conserve natural resources:

NC Forever appears to invite the lambs to lie down with the lions: Environmental Defense Fund, NC Coastal Federation and Audubon Society of North Carolina, plus several parks nonprofits, are joining groups with dubious environmental histories: global pork producer Smithfield Foods, agribusiness advocates the NC Farm Bureau, mining and quarrying company Martin Marietta, and the NC Forestry Association, which represents primarily the interests of the timber industry.

Nonetheless, the nonprofit plans to lobby state lawmakers to appropriate much-needed money to conservation programs, such as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which have sustained major cuts over the past seven years. From 2000 to 2017, state appropriations to the trust fund have declined by more than half, from $40 million to $18 million.

Go and read the whole article. Lisa Sorg has once again delved deeply into an issue, answering most of the questions I had yet to formulate. But that still leaves me with these important questions: What good (net benefit) will we achieve in increasing state funding (taxpayer monies) to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to *attempt* to mitigate water pollution, while we allow massive CAFOs like Smithfield to continually pollute our water? What net benefit will we achieve by purchasing 1,000 acres of woodlands for conservation, while tens of thousands of acres are clear-cut by the wood pellet industry to fuel Europe's wood-burning boondoggle that's supposed to be "renewable" energy? It appears this group is the brainchild of Smithfield Foods, patterned after their Virginia version:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke's attorneys go on the attack as hearings wind down

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Also claiming unlined pits were once considered a "feature" and not recklessly negligent:

Duke Energy blasted its opponents in a final regulatory filing Friday, saying they leaned on "simplistic crutches," false analysis and a Pollyanna hindsight to argue against the company's bid to raise electricity rates enough to cover clean up costs at the company's coal ash ponds.

The company complied with existing laws and industry standards when it left wet ash in unlined pits for decades, they said. At one point "the lack of a liner was considered a feature, rather than a flaw" because soil would filter out contaminants, the company said. Impact on groundwater wasn't initially a concern "because the ash basins were built more than a decade before the adoption of any federal or state regulation related to groundwater corrective action," attorneys argued.

Here's a quick primer for those who may not be aware how environmental statutes and regulations come into being: There is (or has been) usually a period of 10-20 years where contamination is discovered, investigated, then viciously fought-over in civil court, before the demands for government regulation grow to the point some rule or law is put into place to stop it. And during that pre-regulation phase, you can be damned sure attorneys for companies like Duke Energy were well aware of what was going on, and what needed to be done to improve those impoundments. Luckily for us, Josh Stein isn't drinking their arsenic-tainted Kool-Aid, and his legal opposition is definitely not pro-forma:

Court rejects NC Republicans' request for "Stay" on gerrymandering order

Because doing what's right is never a burden:

Judges James A. Wynn, William L. Osteen and W. Earl Britt of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled that the lawmakers had failed to meet the “heavy burden” required to stay the order.

They found that the lawmakers' "motion does not dispute this court’s unanimous conclusions that” the map had resulted in partisan gerrymandering, and ordering that it be redrawn. The judges also found that staying the ruling would not injure the lawmakers, but “would substantially injure — indeed irreparably harm — Plaintiffs.”

In any sane world, Republicans would be seriously re-evaluating their affinity and reliance on bent redistricting to buttress their power. But instead, they're gearing up to bring their funky map-making skills to the Judicial Branch. They honestly have no shame.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Check off NC Senate District 45:

Still a lot of empty slots, folks. Keep working the Blue Wave.

The difficulties of getting young people engaged in political activism

Answering the question that has been circulating lately:

As Women's March organizers prepare for another round of events on Jan. 20 and 21, research shows that few young people share Hahn's excitement for political activism and public protests. Americans ages 15 to 24 are still figuring out their preferred approach to politics, according to the PRRI/MTV 2017 National Youth Survey, released this week.

"A majority of young people describe recent protests and marches negatively, as 'pointless' (16 percent), 'counterproductive' (16 percent), 'divisive' (12 percent), or 'violent' (11 percent.) Only about one-third ascribe positive value to them, saying they are 'inspiring' (16 percent), 'powerful' (16 percent), or 'effective' (4 percent)," the survey reported.

Some of these findings are not really surprising. As much as I hate to use the term "woke," that transformation did not really happen to me until I was in my forties. I may have voted regularly since my late teens, but my knowledge of what I was voting for (or against) was pretty thin, to say the least. At our County Party meeting last night, aside from a couple of small children, the youngest people there were in their thirties, and they were a distinct minority. But before we launch into a "What are we doing wrong?" exercise, it may be them and not us:

Robin Hayes says NC's districts not gerrymandered because they don't look like monsters?

I think he might have fallen during a shuffleboard mishap:

According to the leader of the North Carolina GOP, detecting gerrymandering should be as easy as checking under your bed at night. If you see something that looks like a monster, you’re in trouble. Robin Hayes, chairman of the NC Republican Party, is among many Republicans upset that a panel of federal judges on Tuesday struck down North Carolina’s election districts for U.S. Congress as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders.

“A ‘gerrymander’ is by definition and common understanding, a strange looking ‘monster’ drawing. This map is clearly not that,” Hayes said. He noted that the maps kept 87 of North Carolina’s 100 counties whole and divided only 12 precincts.

Right, because Elbridge Gerry's map was made to look like a dragon by a clever 19th Century political cartoonist, that is now the standard we're supposed to use. The Monster standard. I think Hayes has gone around the bend, hopped on a unicorn, and rode hard for the border between eccentric and bat-shit crazy. But never fear, NCPOL folks are ever ready to jump on an opportunity for a few laughs:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy agrees to pay fines for leaky basins

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But their solution for stopping the leaks may be worse than the leaks themselves:

The country's largest electricity company will pay an $84,000 penalty and work to stop potentially toxic waste from three North Carolina coal-burning power plants from leaking into groundwater and nearby rivers under a deal with state regulators announced Tuesday.

The deal, already signed by a Duke Energy Corp. executive, includes the penalty for nearly two dozen leaky spots detected at coal ash pits at the Rogers, Allen and Marshall power plants before 2015. The agreement acknowledges the leaks from unlined, earthen holding basins at the power plants into the adjoining Catawba and Broad rivers, a violation of pollution laws.

Here's the proposed consent order itself, which is in a pdf format that does not allow copy-and-paste so you'll have to go and read the thing. While this does represent some progress, there are also some trade-offs in there with which I am not happy. The first (and least of my concerns) is that after this agreement is signed and agreed to, those toxic leaks will fall under the category of "permitted" discharges. Meaning, if their future fixes don't work like they think they will, it will be a lot harder to punish Duke Energy for the continued contamination. But it's really the fix itself that has me worried:

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