NC Sierra Club Speaks Out on Crazy Fracking and Regulatory Reform Legislation

North Carolina Chapter Sierra Club
Last week we saw a flurry of news hits and participation.
Here’s a look back.
The week started off with Foothills and Chapter Steering Committee member Gus Preschle getting a letter to the editor published in the Winston Salem Journal.
Your May 13 story “Foot traffic light for community meeting” was short and to the point. The writer states that foot traffic was largely nonexistent at Duke Energy’s community event in Eden. The three dozen smiling Duke Energy employees were probably wondering what it would take to get Duke Energy’s good name back.
Molly and Dustin were quoted in several news outlets on fracking.
North Carolina wants in on the fracking game (Washington Post) – But environmentalists say the legislature is reneging on a pledge it made in 2012 to allow the Mining and Energy Commission to establish a regulatory framework for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, a spokesman for North Carolina’s chapter of the Sierra Club, said the legislature should vote on whether to allow hydraulic fracturing after the commission’s rules are finalized.
Fracking: With drilling on horizon, opponents prepare for fight (Fayetteville Observer) – The North Carolina Sierra Club, which says fracking should not be allowed until the state has adopted adequate protections for ground water and drinking water, will use its political action committee to endorse candidates whom it views as friendly to the environment.
North Carolina Senate Passes Pro-Fracking Bill (Al Jazeera America) –This has left some North Carolinians confused. Why, they wonder, is the state’s Senate pushing so hard to lift a ban on gas drilling before its Mining and Energy Commission even has a chance to draft and receive comment on the rules that would regulate fracking in the state?  “In 2012 the Senate promised that the rules developed by the Mining and Energy Commission would be put in place before fracking was allowed,” said Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, the communications director of the North Carolina branch of the Sierra Club. 
Granting NC Fracking Permits in 2015 Has Senate OK (ABC 11) – Sierra Club appears in the ABC 11 video, not the AP story below.

The NC Chapter also contributed to a number of stories on the massive regulatory reform bill that started to move this week.

NC environmentalists worried by GOP-backed bill (AP) – Molly Diggins, the North Carolina director of the Sierra Club, said the group successfully fought a similar measure from becoming law in the state during the mid-1990s. A note on the ALEC webpage says the language was first approved by the organization’s board in 1996.  “This provision allows companies to hide information that may document knowing, intentional and ongoing violations,” Diggins said. “It gives companies the ability to avoid potential enforcement action, penalties and bad publicity. It would better be called the ‘environmental secrecy’ provision.”
NC Senate Pushes Forward Sweeping Regulatory Reform Bill (WUNC) – “There is the concern that removing the possibility of getting in trouble as long as they [industries or polluters] clean up, as long as they report it, will create questions as far as if best practices are going to be kept in place,” says David Chicurel-Bayard of the Sierra’s Club North Carolina Chapter.
Regulatory reform heads for Senate floor (WRAL) – One provision would allow regulated businesses to avoid civil fines or penalties for a leak or spill as long as they report it and correct it. Molly Diggins with the North Carolina Sierra Club says that’s a return to the 1990s, when regulatory enforcement was far more lax. As written, Diggins says, “It arguably would allow Duke Energy, if they did voluntary site cleanups and inspections, to have that information be confidential and to get blanket immunity from fines.”
Bill Would Restrict Permit Challenges (Coastal Review) – Molly Diggins, director of the N.C. chapter of the Sierra Club, said the changes would effectively prevent environmental groups and others from challenging permits issued to heavy industries, like Titan America. The company wants to build a controversial cement plant near Wilmington. It received a state air permit, but a coalition of groups, including the N.C. Coastal Federation, challenged the permit, claiming the company wasn’t reducing emissions to the levels required by federal law.  “The challenge to Titan could not have gone forward under this provision,” Diggins said.
Dustin Chicurel-Bayard
Communications Director, NC Sierra Club

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