Sierra Club NC Chapter – Legislative Update 07-18-14

Protect Enviro Democracy

Dear Friends,

This week in the General Assembly it began to really feel like the end of session with a variety of old proposals resurfacing and quickly moving through committees without much discussion.

Update on the coal ash bill:

On Monday the Senate failed to concur on the coal ash bill – S 729 – which means that House and Senate conferees will negotiate a final bill behind closed doors. Senator Apodaca asked Senators to not concur so that some changes made by the House could be fixed. Apodaca specifically noted that he does not support the variance procedure added by the House that would allow the Secretary of DENR to approve variances to deadlines in the bill and he does not support housing the new Coal Ash Management Commission under DENR. The Senate’s version of the coal ash bill had the Coal Ash Management Commission housed under the Department of Public Safety. We expect to see changes to both of these parts in a final bill. Senate conferees were appointed yesterday – they are: Senators Berger (R – Guilford, Rockingham), Wade (R – Guilford) and Apodaca (R – Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania). House conferees have not yet been officially appointed but Representatives McGrady (R – Henderson), Samuelson (R – Mecklenburg)and Hager (R – Burke, Rutherford) carried the bill in the House so they are very likely be appointed as conferees. The coal ash bill may not come to a final vote until the very end of session (which should be in the next few weeks) because votes on major bills are often held back until the end to encourage negotiation between the chambers.

Opportunity for Action:

As you may recall, the coal ash bill still lacks assurances that groundwater and surface water will be protected from continuing pollution at all sites. Please contact the Senate conferees and ask them to add clear standards to the bill to ensure that any closure method allowed is protective of groundwater near coal ash sites.

Everything old is new again?

  • Last session the House passed H 201, then called “Reinstate 2009 Energy Conservation Codes” to roll back energy efficiency requirements for commercial buildings. But the bill was never brought to a vote in the Senate. This week, the Senate Rules Committee introduced a revised version of H 201 that renames it “Building Reutilization for Economic Development Act” and narrows the impact of the energy efficiency rollbacks but then proposes new exemptions from stormwater rules and the NC Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) for some commercial buildings. If passed, the result would be that some commercial buildings would be allowed to be built 30% less efficient and would get exemptions from the NC Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). We understand that the intent of the bill is to help one company redevelop a building, but nonetheless its a statewide bill. Energy use in buildings accounts for 70% of total electricity use. And since buildings have a lifespan of between 50 and 75 years it’s critical that new construction be to efficient standards to reduce our overall energy usage and dependency on dirty energy like coal. H 201 is calendared to be voted on by the Senate on Monday.
  • S 883 “Disapprove/Amend Buffer Rules” would strike a list of environmental rules created to protect water quality that were only recently adopted. The existing rules resulted from a lengthy stakeholder negotiation process in which environmental groups were involved. The new proposed rules were created by a separate stakeholder group that did not include environmental groups. One of many problems we see with this bill includes striking a requirement for those who do mitigation projects to provide funds for long term maintenance. Mitigation projects are meant to make up for the loss of wetlands and habitat to development but if we don’t ensure their long-term success we are not really mitigating our losses. More to follow on this bill. S 883 is on the Senate calendar for Monday evening along with H 201.

And why should we have to choose between education and transit?

H 1224 “Local Sales Tax for Education/Econ Dev Changes” was revised by the Senate this week to add a cap on the total sales tax a county may levy and disallow counties from using local sales tax revenues to fund both public education and public transit (thereby forcing a choice between the two). The Senate changes to this bill received negative attention from a number of groups this week, including Sierra Club. H 1224 was removed from the Senate calendar Thursday and sent to Senate Finance Committee where there will likely be revisions proposed on Monday evening. We created an action alert on this bill for Wake County residents since we know that Wake County is considering a transit tax; but again this is a statewide bill so if this concerns you please contact your Senator.

Thank you for your interest and volunteer advocacy! Be on the lookout for more frequent updates and action alerts as the legislative session comes to a close.  The end of session always brings surprises.

Best,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

Webinar: How To Testify at EPA Clean Power Plan Hearing

LEARN HOW TO TESTIFY! Want to learn more about how to give effective public comments on the Clean Power Plan?

Testify

Join us for a Webinar on July 24
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/540442391
The Chicago Organizing Team will lead a webinar on how to prepare persuasive testimony for the EPA Clean Power Plan hearings
Title: How To Testify at EPA Clean Power Plan Hearing
Date: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Time: 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM EDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

NC Public Citizen’s Hearing on EPA Carbon Rules – July 22, Chapel Hill

On June 2, EPA announced the first ever regulations of carbon pollution on existing power plants. The Clean Power Plan, as it is called, has a chance to be the single largest step the U.S. has ever taken to combat climate change. EPA is holding public hearing in four cities – North Carolina’s closest hearing is in Atlanta – NC Interfaith Power & LightClean Air Carolina, Environment NCNC Wildlife Federation, and Sierra Club NC Chapter are collaboratively organizing a Citizen’s Hearing in Chapel Hill to gather testimony and public comments on the plan. Organizing groups will deliver these official public comments to EPA.

Think it’s time for the U.S. to acknowledge and address climate change, then come make your voice heard!

Date:  Tuesday, July 22nd – Chapel Hill, NC

Time:  5:30pm – 8:00pm  public testimony time slot sign-up upon arrival

Assembly Hall
5:30 – 8:00    Group Networking and Informational Tabling with snacks and beverages
6:00 – 7:00    Elected Officials and invited speakers will give testimony

Community Lounge
5:30 – 8:00    Public testimonies (2 min/person) recorded in groups of three

Location:
United Church of Chapel Hill
1321 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
919-942-3540

Help fix the NC coal ash crisis

North Carolina Chapter Sierra Club

Dear friends,

As the 2014 session of the NC General Assembly heads into its final days, one major environmental bill remains in the balance –  one that will succeed, or fall short, of addressing the coal ash crisis in our state.

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As the House takes up S. 729, “Coal Ash Management Act of 2014″, there is critically important issue remains to be addressed in the coal ash bill. We need you take action today.

The February coal ash spill into the Dan River was the third largest in our nation’s history. The spill highlighted the dangerous practice of  storing 103 million tons of toxic coal ash in unlined pits next to our state’s waterways– and to end that practice requires the legislature’s attention, action and leadership.

The Senate has acted.  S 729 “Coal Ash Management Act of 2014″, was approved unanimously last week.  It goes a long way towards addressing the pollution entering our waterways and groundwater from Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds in the state.

But it has one serious shortcoming.

The Senate’s bill does not adequately ensure that all coal ash ponds, including those categorized as “low risk”, will permanently isolate coal ash from water to prevent further water pollution. Coal ash contains toxic heavy metals that are water soluble and at every coal ash site in NC these chemicals are leaking into groundwater supplies.  A proposed solution called “capping in place”, which leaves the coal ash in the ground with a landfill liner on top, can still lead to polluting ground and surface water.

The NC House will take up the coal ash bill at any time now.

Please contact your House Representative today.  Ask that clear criteria be established that would make sure that alternative closure methods selected for all 33 sites would only be allowed if Duke Energy could stop the water pollution from coal ash.

Click here to contact your representative today!

Thanks for standing up for clean water,

Zak Keith
Lead Organizer for the NC Sierra Club

P.S. – This bill could move quickly, please send your message today!  We need your state House Representative to know that without permanent separation of coal ash and ground water, covering coal ash pits is not a solution.

Take Action: Gather Comments to EPA on Carbon Pollution

Climate Change

President Obama promised that his administration would take action to confront the climate crisis — and now the EPA has finally proposed the first-ever safeguards against carbon pollution from our nation’s aging power plants.

This is a big deal, and the big polluters know it.

This is the beginning of what could be the biggest climate fight in history. Fossil fuel billionaires are mobilizing like never before. They’re already sending their lobbyists to Washington and spreading their fear-mongering talking points on Fox News.

Don’t let the fossil fuel billionaires get the last word. Flood the EPA with official comments saying that America is ready for strong climate action!

So what do I do with my signed comment forms? Bring them to our next monthly meeting or mail them to the NC Beyond Coal team at Sierra Club, 34 Wall Street Suite 709, Asheville, NC 28806. For questions or comments, contact contact Zak Keith or Emma Greenbaum.

Thanks for  being a Climate Action Champion!

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Speak Out! – EPA Hearing on Carbon Pollution Standard, July 29th, Atlanta

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EPA Hearing on Carbon Pollution Standard
We invite you to join us!
Tuesday, July 29, from 9am to 8pm
At
lanta, GA

Concerned citizens from around the region are planning to attend the EPA’s public hearing in Atlanta on the newly-proposed Clean Power Plan to set limits on carbon pollution. The hearing will convene at 9:00 a.m. and end at 8:00 p.m. EST and you will need to register here to offer comments. The last day to pre-register in advance will be Friday, July 25, 2014.

For more information about the hearing, visit EPA’s Carbon Rule hearing page; for more information about the proposed rule, check out Mary Anne Hitts’ recent piece on The Next Steps for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and the EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards webpage.

If you are interested in participating, contact Zak Keith or Emma Greenbaum today!

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EPA Hearing on Carbon Pollution Standard

When: Tuesday, July 29th, 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Where: Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth Street, SW
Atlanta, GA, 30303

Register: http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/forms/public-hearings-clean-power-plan-proposed-rule#register

Interested in coming but not sure what to say? Contact

Can’t make it to Atlanta? Submit a comment online, here.

 

The Power of a Plan

Coming Clean: The blog of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune

June 24, 2014

The Power of a Plan

Michael Brune Follow me on Twitter and Facebook. View my blog.

In his 19th-century curmudgeon’s classic, The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce defined a plan as “the best method of accomplishing an accidental result.” When the EPA released its “Clean Power Plan” this month for reducing carbon pollution from power plants, the agency was clear about the results it expects by 2030: Cutting carbon pollution from the power sector to 30 percent below 2005 levels, while also reducing other air pollutants (which by themselves cause thousands of premature deaths) by 25 percent.

Maybe you’ve heard that this plan is momentous — a real game changer. Or maybe you’ve heard that, by itself, it’s not nearly tough enough to get us where we want to be by 2030. Actually, both of those things are true. This plan really is a big deal and it’s the payoff for years of hard work by dedicated activists. And, yes, it can and should be made even stronger — and we’re going to keep working to make that happen. Because the plan focuses on action at the state level, the Sierra Club is particularly well positioned to do that, too.

So, kudos to the EPA. But you know what? We’ve already seen some important results from this plan that — if not quite “accidental” — were by no means a sure thing, either.

Because President Obama is walking the walk on his 2009 Copenhagen pledge to reduce emissions, U.S. international credibility on climate action was boosted overnight. Most notably, we had the first indication ever from China that it was considering capping its own carbon emissions — an announcement that came the day after the EPA rolled out its plan. An important climate summit is happening in Paris next year, and this plan puts the U.S. in a better position to help secure an agreement.

Here at home, the plan has left the fossil-fuel lobby (and the politicians who take their marching orders from the Koch brothers) flailing for a credible response. Many cited a discredited report from the Chamber of Commerce that wasn’t even based on the EPA’s actual plan. Apart from the Tea Party choir, their sermons fell on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, the plan has drawn considerable support from non-fossil fuel industries and businesses, including some utilities. I think there are at least three good reasons for that. First, the EPA bent over backward to make its plan fair and flexible. Second, the reality of climate disruption has long since been accepted by businesses that can already see its effects on their bottom lines. Third, as the EPA’s own analysis shows, these standards not only are a cost-effective response but also will generate new economic opportunities and thousands of jobs.

Most exciting of all has been the response of those who will be most affected by this new plan: the American people. Overwhelmingly, that response has been positive. Polls (including one a week ago from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News) have found two out of three Americans supporting the new standards. Best of all, in at least one poll, a majority stuck to that view whether they were Democrats, Republicans, or independents.

But, getting back to long-term results, do I think that by 2030 we will achieve the results the EPA is aiming for with this plan? No. I think we’ll do far better. By 2030, clean, renewable energy will be playing a much bigger role in our economy than the EPA is guessing, and that transformation will multiply the already significant public health, economic, and climate benefits we’re expecting from these carbon pollution reductions.

Should that be called an accidental outcome? If so, then it’s a happy one.

You can submit an official comment on the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan here.

Special Report: Duke Energy Coal Ash Controversy

Thanks to WCNC and Stuart Watson for these two great investigations into the Duke Energy Coal ash controversy. The latest installment aired this past Sunday. Be sure to watch and learn. Then share your outrage with your local NC elected officials.

Duke Coal Ash Report WCNC June 2014

 

Part 2 – FlashPOINT: A deeper look into the coal ash controversy

June 22, 2014. In this week’s special edition of FlashPOINT, NBC Charlotte I-Team Investigator, Stuart Watson, takes a deeper look into the coal ash controversy.

Part 1 – WCNC NBC Charlotte Coal Ash FlashPoint Special

Mar 2, 2014. NBC Charlotte’s Stuart Watson takes you deep into the Duke Energy Coal Ash spill in this 30-minute FlashPOINT special.

A Powerful Show: “Freedom Summer” on PBS

Nancy and I watched this last night. Wow! Double Wow!!

This is a powerful and sobering reminder of the courage and sacrifice needed to create change in the civil rights movement. What lessons can we learn, what spark of passion and commitment can be gained to apply to our work to protect our environment and our democracy today? Watch this and be moved…

Set your DVR for WTVI on Wednesday, June 25th at 9pm!

During the summer of 1964, the nation’s eyes were riveted on Mississippi. Over 10 memorable weeks known as Freedom Summer, more than 700 student volunteers joined with organizers and local African Americans in an historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in the nation’s most segregated state. Working together, they canvassed for voter registration, created Freedom Schools, and established the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, with the goal of challenging the segregationist state Democratic Party at the national convention in Atlantic City. The campaign was marked by sustained and deadly violence, including the notorious murders of three civil rights workers, countless beatings, the burning of 35 churches and the bombing of 70 homes and Freedom Houses.

“Energizing Charlotte with Solar Power” – Program and Materials

We had a great turnout and response to our Solarize Charlotte program last night! Thanks again to Myers Park Baptist Church, the Cornwell Center, and the EarthKeepers for hosting the event. Big, big kudos and thanks to Mary Lou Buck for her great logistics and promotion, Rachel Shook for materials and signs, Bob Thomason for leading two tours of the church solar installation, and our presenters Solarize Champion Steve Rundle  and RED Group Jeff Redwine!!!

Solarize Charlotte MPBCPhoto by Ahmer Inam

Presentation on Solarize Charlotte Program

Solarize Charlotte MPBC June 24.Solarize Charlotte MPBC June 24

Video on the RED Group and the Solarize Charlotte sign up/installation process

Video on Solarize Charlotte related tax issues

NC Solar Center: Residential Customer Guide to Going Solar

Duke Solar Residential GuideDuke-Energy-Carolinas-Solar-Guide

Solarize Charlotte Resources

Solarize Charlotte
www.cleanerischeaper.com

Solarize Charlotte Facebook
www.facebook.com/SolarizeCharlotte

Renewable Energy Design Group, l3c (RED Group)     
www.redgroupnc.com

NREL’s PVWatts® Calculator 
www.pvwatts.nrel.gov

NC Sierra Club Solar
www.nc2.sierraclub.org/issue/solar

NC Sustainable Energy Association
www.energync.org

 

Please share this link and information with your friends and neighbors. Solarize Charlotte is hot, hot, hot!

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