* Sierra Club Webinar – July 23: Fracking in NC: What happened, What it means, & What’s next

Make plans to join in this webinar to learn more and do more on this issue!

Fracking in NC: What happened, what it means, & what’s next
Join us for a Webinar on July 23
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/937146679
In a hectic turn of events, Governor Perdue’s veto of SB820– the “fast-track fracking” bill — was overridden by the Senate and then the House.

What does the bill actually say? What does it mean for natural gas extraction in North Carolina? What’s next for our fracking campaign, and how can you help to make sure that NC remains “frack-free”?

Join us for this webinar, led by Chapter Lobbyist, Will Morgan, and Fracking Campaign Organizer, Travis Hargett.

Title: Fracking in NC: What happened, what it means, & what’s next
Date: Monday, July 23, 2012
Time: 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM EDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.5 or newer

* New EPA Data Show Coal Ash Problem Much Worse

Coal ash pollution and health risks are wide spread across NC. SEVEN (7) coal ash ponds and landfills are on the Catawba River upstream of our drinking water source. It’s time we started asking more tough questions. It’s time we worked harder to shut these down and clean them up before this happens to us…

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
June 27, 2012
 
Contact:
Lisa Evans, Earthjustice (781-631-4119); levans@earthjustice.org
Lisa Hallowell, Environmental Integrity Project, (202-294-3282); lhallowell@environmentalintegrity.org
 
New EPA Data Show Coal Ash Problem Much Worse
Number of coal ash ponds nationwide increases by over 60%
 
Washington, D.C. – Today the EPA released information revealing the existence of hundreds of previously unknown coal ash dumps nationwide. The information comes pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) by Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice. 
 
The data released today by the EPA reveal that there are at least 451 more coal ash ponds than previously acknowledged—significantly increasing the known threat from coal ash. The EPA had admitted to 710 ponds, and today’s numbers increase that total to at least 1,161. In addition, the agency previously did not know how many ponds were unlined.  Today’s data indicate that at least 535 ponds (46 percent) operate without a liner to prevent hazardous chemicals from reaching drinking water sources. 
 
The full list of responses from power plants about their coal ash ponds and landfills can be found here: http://earthjustice.org/documents/reference/pdf/coal-combustion-waste-disposal-units-at-coal-fired-power-plants
 
While 562 ponds are recorded as having a liner (64 plants did not answer the question), the EPA has not yet released data regarding what kind of liner is employed. Only a composite liner is sufficient to prevent the escape of dangerous levels of contaminants, and the EPA has estimated that the use of composite liners at coal ash ponds is very low.
 
“The public health threat from toxic coal ash continues to grow,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans.  “The data today reveal that coal ash is being disposed in hundreds of units that are not fit to contain hazardous chemicals. The increased danger posed by coal ash dumps underscores the need for EPA to act. Congressional attempts to cater to the polluters and deny the EPA the authority to protect millions of Americans living near these sites are dangerous and misguided.”
 
The new data also reveal a significant increase in the number of coal ash landfills. In 2010, the EPA estimated that there were approximately 337 coal ash landfills, and the agency admitted that it did not know how many of these dumps had basic controls such as liners to stop the landfills from leaking. Today we know that there are at least 393 coal ash landfills (active, planned, and retired), 44 percent of the active and retired landfills lack liners; 53 percent of these active and retired landfills lack leachate collection systems.
 
“The new EPA data confirms that we are just beginning to realize the threat coal ash dumps pose to drinking water supplies and the health of nearby communities,” said Lisa Widawsky Hallowell, attorney, Environmental Integrity Project.  “Unlined ponds and landfills leach the toxic pollutants in coal ash – including known carcinogens like arsenic – into drinking water supplies and waterways, placing communities and the environment at risk. Federal standards are long overdue, yet Congress has tried to strip the EPA of its authority to require, and enforce, basic safeguards.” 
 
Unfortunately, the EPA today did not reveal the existence of all of the nation’s coal ash dumps. According to the agency, many utilities made a “confidential business information” claim on the information they submitted, and the agency is unable to release this information until it determines that data related to waste management would not be protected.
 
The transportation bill is must pass legislation that will create 2.9 million jobs and fund much needed repair and maintenance work for our nation’s roads—the House  of Representatives passed a coal ash amendment last month that would allow hundreds of ponds like the one that spilled in Tennessee in 2008 to operate indefinitely without basic safety standards. Household garbage would be better regulated than toxic coal ash. Just last week, the House of Representatives voted again to support the coal ash amendment. Senate and House conferees have been negotiating behind closed doors to potentially include this dangerous amendment that would continue to risk the health and safety of millions of American living near these dumps.
 
The EPA received this information from electric utilities pursuant to an information collection request it sent to hundreds of coal-fired power plants in 2010.  That information collection request can be found here:http://water.epa.gov/scitech/wastetech/guide/steam_index.cfm#point6
 
#####

* Why Elections Matter – Step Up to Elect the Right Candidates

Interested in helping out on the 2012 elections? We need people to work on endorsements, campaigns, etc. Let us know if you would like to help.

From Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director

June 27, 2012

Why Elections Matter

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

We’re still months away from Election Day, but big polluters are already spending millions of dollars to attack President Obama and push a reckless agenda that puts their profits before the health of our planet and American families.

In the first three months of 2012, Big Oil and Big Coal groups alone spent more than $16 million attacking President Obama and promoting dirty energy. The coal industry’s trade association will add $40 million. The Koch brothers even more than that. Big Oil CEOs are serving as advisers to Mitt Romney and sending tens of millions more to his campaign coffers and Super PACs. These big polluters have made it clear that they will spend and say anything to defeat the president and elect Mitt Romney.

There’s a simple reason for all of this. Big polluters know that President Obama has and will continue to take tough stands to defend the health of American families — and that Mitt Romney will follow the big polluter playbook to the letter.

Just last week, Romney aligned himself with the coal industry and the most extreme congressional Republicans by supporting legislation in the Senate that would have rolled back critical protections that will keep American families safe from mercury pollution. This is nuts. Obama’s safeguards to limit mercury pollution and other toxic air emissions is the most effective standard to limit pollution in a decade. It is a landmark step forward that will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks, while saving American families as much as $90 billion in health costs every year.

Thankfully, enough senators stood up for clean air and healthy families to defeat this destructive effort (and President Obama threatened to veto the reckless legislation should it ever reach his desk). But where we would be if Romney were in the White House? Or if politicians bought and paid for by Big Oil controlled the Senate? By leaping into the arms of Big Oil and Big Coal, Romney has taken a stand in direct opposition to so many of the things we care about — and he’d bring those policies with him to Washington, if elected.

For decades, Sierra Club members and activists across the country have fought to protect our air, our water, and the health of our families from the poisonous mercury pollution pumped out by coal-fired power plants. From city halls to the White House, we demanded that our elected officials stand up to big polluters and act to protect our kids from toxins that can result in birth defects, learning disabilities, deafness, blindness, and even cerebral palsy.

We helped create an historic victory and have great reason to celebrate. But as hard-fought as these victories are, we also know they are precarious. Fossil fuel companies and the executives that run them have made it clear that they will spend anything and say anything to oppose efforts to create a clean energy future. And now we know they have a friend in Mitt Romney.

Fortunately, we have one thing the big polluters will never have — each other. Across the United States, millions of Americans are standing up for clean energy, clean air and water, and the health of our families. Now that we know the choices, it’s time to do just that, and make our voices heard. Yes, big polluters have a lot of money, but let’s show it’s no match for a clean energy movement – an idea whose time has come.

Paid for by the Sierra Club Political Committee, sierraclub.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Michael Brune is the Sierra Club’s executive director.

* Behind the Scenes in the NC Fracking Vote – Shameful

 

Here a few stories that you may have missed about the approval of the “Rush to Fracking” bill that was passed “in error” last week.

Susi Hamilton blames “well-to-do environmental lobby”http://www.wwaytv3.com/2012/07/06/rep-susi-hamilton-issues-statement-fracking-vote

 
PRO-FRACKING NC LAWMAKERS COZIED UP WITH SCANDAL-PLAGUED GAS COMPANY: Fracking proponents traveled to Pennsylvania last year to visit natural gas drilling sites. Their tour guide was Chesapeake Energy — a company that’s now under federal investigation for questionable business practices and price fixing. (7/5/2012)

 

THE CRAZY LATE-NIGHT VOTE THAT LEGALIZED FRACKING IN NORTH CAROLINA: After months of debate, the decision to legalize fracking in North Carolina came down to a botched vote and a $60 million tax break. (7/3/2012)

* Coal ash industry fakes names, Rachel Maddow and other news organization report on it

Watch the video and/or read the articles (the video is excellent!) and you’ll understand why we need to work at the national, state, and local level to stop pollution from coal ash!

Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) featured a coal ash story on her program last night:  the story is entitled, Steamed Bun, Older Sister - highlighting how the coal ash industry has attempted to create the illusion of a grassroots effort supporting their position for not regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste.  Citizens for Recycling First created an on line petition that included hundreds of fake Chinese names – these fake names were exposed by a report done by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). 
Steamed Bun, Older Sister – Maddow story:
EIP’s report:  Meet Coal Ash’s New Fake Chinese Friends, Big Steamed Bun and Handsome Dragon
Mother Jones: 

* Great News! – Court upholds EPA’s greenhouse gas rules

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

6/26/2012

Contact: Eitan Bencuya: 202-495-3047, eitan.bencuya@sierraclub.org

D.C. Court of Appeals Upholds Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Standards

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, in a sweeping victory for public health and clean air, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued decisions in four challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) historic climate and clean air protections. Major industrial polluters joined with states like Texas to challenge these safeguards, which will protect Americans’ health, improve vehicle efficiency, and reduce greenhouse gas pollution. The Sierra Club rallied tens of thousands of people across the country to support the standards, and the Sierra Club legal team joined our allies in a landmark legal defense of the protections, when they were challenged.

The four rules upheld today were:

  • The Climate Pollution Endangerment Finding, in which, after an extensive review of scientific research and peer-reviewed studies, the EPA found that six greenhouse gasses endanger human health and welfare.
  • The Clean Car Standards, in which the EPA established cost-saving fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks sold from 2012-2016. These safeguards will save consumers an estimated $3,000 at the pump over the life of the vehicle, reduce reliance on foreign oil by 1.8 billion barrels over the life of the vehicle, and will reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 960 million tons. The standards are supported by U.S. automakers and the United Auto Workers union, among others, and the automakers and a dozen states intervened in defense of the standards.
  • The Timing and Tailoring Rules, in which the EPA phased in carbon pollution permits for the biggest industrial pollution sources, while protecting small businesses. The Court determined that none of the challengers were injured by these regulatory relief decisions.

In response, Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision is a huge victory for American families and everyone concerned about protecting the air we breathe and the health of our children. The role of the Clean Air Act in protecting our families from dangerous carbon pollution and climate disruption should never have been in doubt, and this decision is a big step forward in putting the well-being of Americans before the boundless profits of big polluters.

“Carbon pollution is dangerous to our planet and our health. The Environmental Protection Agency has the right and the duty to keep our communities healthy and now the path is clear for them to curb this dangerous pollution, which threatens our families and planet. We applaud the court’s decision and stand with the EPA as they continue to fight for the health of American families.”

###

* Exclusive Charlotte Event “Fixing the Future” – July 18th, 7:30 PM

Make plans to join us and help spread the word!

Sierra Club, Sustain Charlotte, and PiES will be hosting an exclusive Charlotte showing  of Fixing the Future on July 18th at the Epicenter Theater. Starting at 6:00 pm will have a pre-viewing networking social get together in the theater lounge and the film starts at 7:30 (tickets required).

It’s going to be an enlightening and thought provoking film. By featuring communities using sustainable and innovative approaches to create jobs and build prosperity, Fixing the Future inspires hope and renewal in a people overwhelmed by economic collapse. The film highlights effective, local practices such as: local business alliances, community banking, time banking/hour exchange, worker cooperatives and local currencies.

Following the film there will be an onscreen panel discussion from a great cast (see below) and then we’ll have a community discussion, film reaction, and sharing of ideas and solutions to make Charlotte Mecklenburg more sustainable.

Watch the video for more information. Download the flyer and send it to your friends and neighbors. Remember, friends don’t let friends miss this event!

More to follow…

 

Download the flyer here Fixing the Future Charlotte Flyer

 

 

* Learn Fly Fishing at Sierra Club Orvis Outing – July 22

Ever wanted to learn fly fishing? Well, here’s your chance. Join Sierra Club Executive Committee member Tim Slape for a fun filled morning (10:00-12:00) on Sunday, July 22. The event is free and open to the public and you do not have to be a Sierra Club member to attend. The class is limited to the first 20 people and registration ( 704-571-6100) is required. Cast your fears aside and plan to attend!

 

* Thanks Dan for Great ConNet Legislative Updates

I’ve really enjoyed Dan Conrads’ wit and wisdom in reporting what’s gone on in the NC legislature. Dan is moving on and we’ll miss his great work and advocacy. Here’s his wrap up of the good, the bad, and the ugly from this legislative session. All the best Dan!

 

 

 

NC Conservation Network Legislative Update for July 5, 2012
Volume 14, number 9


1. The Big Picture.  GO  

2. Session Wrap Up – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  GO 

3. So Long, Farewell.  GO 

4. Summary of bill that became law this Session.  GO


1. The Big Picture 

You just can’t make this stuff up… This being my seventh session in some capacity at the General Assembly I assumed I had seen it all, and that there was no way I could be any more cynical or jaded about the process…well you know what they say about people who assume.  The last two days of the 2012 biennium will surely be remembered.

After vetoing the budget on Friday, the Governor waited until Sunday to veto S820 (Clean Energy and Economic Security Act).  The legislature moved quickly to bring up the Racial Justice Act and Budget veto overrides, however, fracking appeared to be the one they were scrambling the  most on to collect the necessary votes.  A hastily called finance meeting was assembled late Monday night and the budget was amended to add in a $60 million dollar tax credit for the film industry in Wilmington.  Once the House reconvened S820 was immediately brought up for veto override consideration.  No debate was allowed on the bill and they moved quickly to a vote.  The motion passed 72-47, achieving the 3/5ths by just one vote.  However, immediately after the vote Rep. Becky Carney (Mecklenburg-D) could be seen scrambling to talk to the Speaker and then heard to exclaim she had pushed the wrong button.  A House rule prohibits members from changing their votes if it would change the outcome, the rules can be suspended by a majority vote.  When Rep. Carney rose to explain her situation, rather than be recognized the Speaker recognized Rep. Paul Stam (Wake-R) who made a motion to reconsider and then an immediate subsequent motion that his motion do lie upon the table, meaning that the vote could never be reconsidered.  This motion is non-debatable and passed on party lines.  Thus rather than let Rep. Carney explain her mistake and potentially change her vote, thus changing the outcome of the vote, the series of maneuvers ensured there was no way that could ever be done, and with that fracking was legalized in North Carolina.  Laura Leslie ran a piece on the mistaken vote that has aired on CNN: http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/video/11277668/#/vid11277668

The fallout did not stop there however; the vote by Rep. Susi Hamilton (New Hanover-D) to override the Governor has caused quite a firestorm and displays the worst of politics.  The film tax credit was maligned by Republicans even in 2010, so it was quite surprising they saw this issue, never even discussed in the budget process, as worthy of consideration this late in the session.  Things became clearer when Rep. Hamilton, a huge proponent of the tax credit, as it impacts her district, walked on the budget override vote and switched her vote on fracking to become the deciding vote to override the Governor’s veto.  Her vote seemed even stranger considering she had just been honored by the NC League of Conservation Voters as an environmental rising star and just days earlier had signed on to a letter urging the Governor to veto the fracking legislation.

Following the vote Rep. Hamilton was under particular scrutiny and accusations of pay for play politics, on Tuesday NCLCV stripped her of her recent award, their press release is available here:http://nclcv.org/news/releases/falling_star/; this is when the backpedaling began.  Among her numerous stories and rationalizations were that: 1)she did not know fracking was on the letter to the Governor; 2)she had signed on the letter due to another provision it discussed; 3)Rep. Pricey Harrison (Guilford-D), the letters author, had mistakenly put her name on the letter; and 4) despite having assured several environmental lobbyists in person that her vote was not of concern, that the idea to override the Governor had actually come from environmentalists because we could get something much worse later as she stated “they could have resurrected S709.” S709 is a study of possible regulatory frameworks for fracking and other non-binding actions related to drilling without any formal rulemaking or legalization of the practice so it is hard to see how anyone could consider that worse than S820 which legalizes fracking and places the design of a framework in the hands of a newly created industry laden Commission.  Adding even more to the story are reports that Rep. Hamilton rents property to film producers benefitting from the tax credit.  Here are but a few of the recent stories regarding Rep. Hamilton’s vote:

http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/blogpost/11278925/

http://www.wwaytv3.com/2012/07/03/hamilton-defends-vote-against-fracking-veto

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/07/05/3360683/a-legislative-honor-you-dont-want.html#disqus_thread

http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2012/07/03/a-fitting-end-to-a-nightmare-session/

As if all that were not enough the legislature also delayed the implementation of portions of the Jordan Lake clean up in two bills S229 (Amend Environmental Laws) and H953(Amend Environmental Laws 2) and prohibited the adoption of any policies regarding sea level rise for four years H819 (Coastal Management Policies).  The debate on H819 Tuesday morning digressed into a comical half an hour debate of climate change science which would have frightened most science teachers in the State.  And now it’s on to the elections.


2.   Session Wrap Up – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  

Here’s a quick wrap up of what has passed this session for a more complete analysis of the bills please see the Bills that became law this Session section below.
The Good: Apparently Tom Cors of the Nature Conservancy likes Section 18 of S229 which provides certain protections to the Galax and Venus Flytrap, aside from adjournment that’s the best I could find.

The Bad: So many choices, so little time–
S.L. 2012-142. H950 (Modify 2011 Appropriations Act.), Harold Brubaker (Randolph-R)
S.L. 2012-91. H952 (State Air Toxics Program Reforms.), Mitch Gillespie (Burke-R)
H177 (Clean Energy Transportation Act.), Ruth Samuelson (Mecklenburg-R)
H585 (Vehicle Emissions Inspections), Gaston Pridgen (Hoke-R)
H819 (Coastal Management Policies), Pat McElraft (Carteret-R)
H953 (Amend Environmental Laws 2.), Mitch Gillespie (Burke-R)
S.L. 2012-143. S820 (Clean Energy and Economic Security Act.), Bob Rucho (Mecklenburg-R)
S229 (Amend Environmental Laws), Don East (Alleghaney-R)
S810 (Regulatory Reform Act.), David Rouzer (Johnston-R)

The Ugly: Hmmm nothing ugly really comes to mind, oh wait please reread the entire first section of this update.

 

3. So Long, Farewell. 

Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu… On a personal note, as many of you already know this is my final legislative update (and actually my last day at Conservation Network).  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my three years here and will miss the many friends I have made amongst all of our affiliate organizations.  I look forward to continuing to work on the issues and hope to cross paths with many of you in the future.  I’d also like to thank the entire NCCN staff, especially our Stanback Intern Cassidy Nolan, a duke law student who has helped greatly with putting these updates together this year, and Grady McCallie for all his help and contributions to the updates over the years.  As a parting gift here is a new video of a puppy chasing a crab on the beach and a repeat of a Staff favorite: Baby Monkey Riding Backwards on a Pig.

* RibbonWalk Repair Day – July 7, This Saturday, 9:00 -12:00

 

Greetings Kudzu Killers and RibbonWalk Warriors,

First Saturday of the month (7/7) and it’s time for our RibbonWalk Repair Day! Come on out and joins to have some fun and give back to our Park & Rec System. We’ll be doing some invasive removal and trail maintenance. For the brave of heart and those looking to get into the water and mud, bring your boots to walk the ponds and do some trash removal. They’ll be a little something for everyone and a lot of fun for all. See you there!

P.S. Bessie and Terra will be there as usual!

Who: You! Sierra Club members, potential members, and those that love to preserve and protect the environment are welcome to join us.

What: RibbonWalk Nature Preserve. RibbonWalk Nature Preserve is a 188-acre urban forest, located in north central Mecklenburg County only four miles from center city Charlotte. The preserve protects a diversity of forest and wetland habitats, including one of the oldest American beech tree groves in the region. Learn more at: http://www.charmeck.o….

When: First Saturday of the month unless noted on the website (www.charlottesierraclub.org). Bojangles biscuits, coffee and juice between 8:30 and 9:00 AM. Sign-in with liability waiver at 9:00 AM. Work and fun from 9:00 until 12:00 PM. We often will take a short hike to end the day and be back at the parking lot between 12:00 and 12:30 PM. Can’t stay for the entire time? No problem.

Where: 4601 Nevin Road, Charlotte, NC 28269. RibbonWalk Nature Preserve is located in north central Mecklenburg County a mile north of the intersection of I-85 and I-77. Get Directions

Why: The Sierra Club Central Piedmont group has adopted RibbonWalk as part of our conservation efforts and our Resilient Habitat campaign. With severe cutbacks to the Park & Rec budget, citizen volunteers are critical to helping to maintain our natural resources. Join us and make a difference.

What to bring: Dress in layers to stay warm. Wear sturdy shoes for work and walking. Bring a water bottle and a snack if you would like to nibble while you work. Work gloves recommended. Tools are provided but you are welcome to bring your own loppers, trowels, knives, etc.

RSVP or more information: Bill Gupton at sierraclub.centpiedchair@gmail.com.

Download a RibbonWalk trail map: http://charmeck.org/m….

Read about our work: “December RibbonWalk Day Makes News” http://charlottesierr….