Sierra Club-wide call on the EPA Clean Power Plan – Sept 10

Sierra Club Aim Higher

Greetings Sierra Club staff and volunteers! We are writing to invite you to a Sierra Club-wide call on the EPA Clean Power Plan, and to provide you with a couple of new resources to support your advocacy in the weeks ahead.
 
First, mark your calendars for a call Wednesday, Sept. 10. Join us at either 2:00pm or 8:00pm ET, whichever works best for your schedule, at the following number: 866-501-6174, code 107-397-1913. We’ll update you on the latest developments around the Clean Power Plan, share the work of some chapters and volunteers from around the country, and have policy experts on the line to answer your questions.
 
Second, below you’ll find three resources to support your advocacy on the Clean Power Plan:
  • One page fact sheet: An overview of the Clean Power Plan and the historic opportunity it creates for us to build a clean energy roadmap in all 50 states.
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQ): Answers some of the questions that have been rolling in from staff and volunteers around the nation.
  • Strengthening document: An overview of our latest thinking on areas where the rule needs to be strengthened.
 
We’ll share an agenda for the call as the date gets closer – in the meantime, mark your calendars and keep sending along your needs and questions around the Clean Power Plan. And thanks for all your great work!
 
Mary Anne Hitt
Director, Beyond Coal Campaign
Sierra Club
 
 
 

NC Sierra Club Legislative Report August 2, 2014

Protect Enviro Democracy

Dear Friends,

This was a rollercoaster of a week in the General Assembly as is often the case the last week of session.  The catch is, lawmakers plan to return in just a few weeks and again in November before really adjourning the 2013 “short” session. Although the House and Senate came to agreement on a budget, some major decisions are left on the table, including a coal ash bill and a Medicaid bill.

Update on the coal ash bill:

You may recall that the Senate voted to not concur on the coal ash bill (S729) after it was revised and passed by the House. Therefore, the following conferees were appointed to negotiate a final bill:

From the Senate: Senators Berger (R – Guilford, Rockingham), Wade (R – Guilford) and Apodaca (R – Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania)

From the House: Representatives McGrady (R – Henderson), Samuelson (R – Mecklenburg), Hager (R – Burke, Rutherford) and Glazier (D – Cumberland).

These conferees worked to negotiate the details of a final bill, but were unable to reach agreement. The Senate conferees plus Rep. Hager, a former Duke Energy employee, agreed on a Senate revision of the bill – the details of which are unknown. Separately, three House conferees came to agreement on a House revision of the bill. The House revision includes language to disallow capping in place if coal ash is proven to be in contact with the water table – to protect against groundwater contamination.  Coal ash is contaminating groundwater around all 33 coal ash ponds and, in some cases, nearby drinking water wells. One of the primary objectives of any coal ash legislation should be to put a stop to this. It appears that the Senate would not agree to the House water quality proposal, amongst others – and that is what resulted in an impasse.  Thursday night the Senate threatened to pass the House bill without any changes from the conference committee – but that would have meant not getting the changes championed by Senator Apodaca – including revision of the variance procedure and changing the placement of the new Coal Ash Management Commission away from DENR.  It appears that the Senate and House will continue to negotiate the coal ash bill; the adjournment resolution listed it as a bill that will be taken up in November session – but the resolution could be amended to allow for it to be considered in August.

Opportunity for Action:

Please thank Representatives McGrady, Samuelson and Glazier for pressing for stronger groundwater protections in the coal ash bill. And urge them to continue to strive for this in any coal ash legislation that is passed.

Legislation Passed in the Final(ish) Week of Session:

The budget – H 744

The Senate’s budget proposal had a number of concerning things in it related to fracking. For example – the Senate wished to allocate public funds for exploratory wells and for advertising North Carolina for fracking. The fracking funds were thankfully removed by the House and stayed out of the final budget.  And, although the Clean Water Management Trust Fund didn’t get the hoped-for amount of conservation funding, there was a new allocation to the Fund for $500,000 to go towards local projects to reduce stormwater pollution into some of the state’s most polluted lakes. Representative Tom Murry (R- Wake) and Senator Tamara Barringer (R- Wake) played key roles in creating this new funding stream that could help reduce pollution flowing into Jordan Lake, Falls Lake and other drinking water reservoirs that have nutrient overload problems. This is the kind of forward-looking measure that the legislature should look to instead of delaying clean up rules and leasing water mixers for Jordan Lake that cannot physically prevent pollution. The House had proposed $10 million for land conservation but the final budget instead includes only earmarks up to $3 million in for one particular park acquisition which is somewhat disappointing.  Please thank Representative Murry and Senator Barringer for their efforts to put some funding towards pollution prevention in a difficult  budget year.

A bill to replace riparian buffer rules with new industry-approved rules:

S 883 “Disapprove/Amend Buffer Rules” strikes a list of environmental rules created to protect water quality that were only recently adopted in favor of different rules that were developed by an industry stakeholder group. The existing buffer rules resulted from a lengthy stakeholder negotiation process in which environmental groups were involved while the proposed rules were created by a separate stakeholder group that did not include environmental groups. Overall this bill seems to be based on a flawed process and to benefit mitigation bankers at the expense of water quality. Governor McCrory immediately signed this bill into law.

A bill that will create a new exemption to public records law to shield agricultural operations:

H 366, the Farm Act, which passed today, contains a provision creating a new unnecessary exemption to state public records law. The bill says that complaints about agricultural operations will be kept secret unless and until DENR decides that there was a violation. This means that citizen complaints that alert DENR to environmental problems will not be able to be discovered by a public records request unless it turns out that the complaint led to a violation. Making unwarranted or frivolous complaints is already a crime – so there is no need to create special carve outs from public records laws which are meant to improve government transparency.

And Legislation that we wish was dead but may return in August or November:

A bill that would limit the ability of local governments to fund public transportation

H 1224 “Local Sales Tax for Education/Econ Dev Changes” stalled this week in the House. It would cap the total sales tax a county may levy at a rate that presents problems for Triangle communities that have plans to create a regional transit system. H 1224 passed the Senate but then rather than pass it, the House referred the bill to the House Rules Committee for further consideration (or perhaps to die).

Three regulatory reform bills that contain a variety of bad environmental provisions:

H 761, S 734 “ and S 38 are all so-called “regulatory reform” bills that contain a variety of changes and updates to laws, some innocuous and some provisions that when added up look like a polluter’s wishlist. Some of the sections Sierra Club opposed include: requiring removal of air quality monitors, making citizen environmental suits on air quality more difficult, reducing permitting requirements for building in coastal wetlands, and reducing protections for isolated wetlands. Nearly all of the undesirable environmental provisions were added into these bills by the Senate, but yet the Senate did not vote on them.  The adjournment resolution passed by the House identifies certain bills that may be addressed on August 14th – and these regulatory reform bills are on the list. We are hopeful that these bills do not go forward – or if they do – we hope that the worst environmental provisions do not stay in.

Thank you for taking action,

Best,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

Join us for the People’s Climate March Sept 21 in New York City

Peoples Climate March Sierra Club

The People’s Climate March

Let’s Make History!

Join us for the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21. The People’s Climate March–held just days before the United Nations Climate Summit–is an unparalleled opportunity to let our world leaders know how urgently the public is calling for solutions to climate disruption, and how we need to move quickly from dirty fuels to clean energy. Besides, it just might be the biggest public outpouring of support for climate solutions this planet has ever seen.

The People’s Climate March is going to be a big deal. RSVP now, and keep checking back for details on special trains and buses that might be leaving from your area.

There are over 325 local, national, and international organizations participating in the People’s Climate March. See a list of our partners.

WHAT: The People’s Climate March
WHO: Sierra Club, tens of thousands of passionate and dedicated allies, and you!
WHERE: NYC!
WHEN: Sunday, September 21st

The People’s Climate March is going to be a really big deal. RSVP now!

Check out why Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune is calling for action.

Join the virtual rally to #ActOnClimate

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Dear friends,
Join the virtual rally to support limits on carbon pollution!

Join the Thunderclap!

Take action

In just a few clicks you can help make historic limits on carbon pollution a reality.

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.

From July 29-31, the EPA will be holding public hearings on these historic limits. Hundreds of activists will testify and rally outside hearings in Denver, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. Even if you can’t be there in person, you can help put pressure on the EPA by donating a tweet or Facebook status update in advance, all timed to hit at once as the hearings begin Tuesday morning. 

This will help make #EPA and #ActOnClimate important trending topics on social media, creating a buzz for people to take action. It also puts pressure on EPA to listen to grassroots activists, not lobbyists paid by the big polluters.

Join the “Thunderclap” to support limits on carbon pollution, showing EPA that Americans demand they #ActOnClimate.

You may be asking yourself, what’s a “Thunderclap”?

Here’s how it works: we provide you with a message of support for EPA to #ActOnClimate (which you can personalize), and using an online service called Thunderclap, you can have the message automatically posted to your Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr accounts at the exact same moment as hundreds of others across the country.

Donate a Tweet, Facebook status, or Tumblr post now.

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. While their money talks, they can’t match our people power.

By joining this virtual rally of thousands of people taking action online, you will fight back. You will also spread the message directly to your friends, family, and followers– the people you have the most social media influence over. No talking head or slick ad campaign will be as influential as you.

Spread the message and ask your friends and followers to submit a written comment into EPA supporting their Clean Power Plan.

Thank you for all you do,

Andy Wilson

Online Organizer
Beyond Coal Campaign

P.S. Six messages are more powerful than one! After you take action, forward this message to five of your friends and family and make sure you spread the word about the Thunderclap on social media.

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

NC Sierra Club Footnotes Online – July 2014

North Carolina Chapter Sierra Club

Dear friends,

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Our newsletter has a new look this month.  It’s part of our ongoing effort to make it easier for you to understand what’s going on in North Carolina and for you to take action on issues you care about.

Please enjoy this issue of Footnotes and thanks for all the work that you do to make our state a better place to explore, enjoy, and protect.

Cheers,

Your staff at the North Carolina Sierra Club

 

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Take Action on Coal Ash

Legislators from the NC House and NC Senate will soon start working on the final details of the coal ash bill.  We need you to write to legislators and let them know the final version of the bill must ensure that coal ash will no longer pollute our state’s waterways.

Every coal ash site in North Carolina is leaking. The only way to make sure all of North Carolina’s communities are protected from dangerous coal ash is for you to demand comprehensive action from legislators.

Click here to read more and to take action!

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Speak Up for Clean Water!

Right now, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is accepting public comment on a proposed set of water quality standards meant to keep North Carolina in compliance with the Clean Water Act and adopt EPA standards for metals.

Federal law requires states to review and update water quality standards every three years. North Carolina last did it in 2007. And while DENR has proposed a number of updates for the first time in 7 years, there are still some things missing that North Carolinians deserve.

Click here to read more and to take action today!

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Solar is Rising

Right now, North Carolina has the second most solar capacity in construction in the country. And this isn’t anything new.  For the past few years, our state has been a solar powerhouse, creating jobs and investment all across the state. However, the development that’s creating jobs and investment has been mostly limited to utility scale projects – large farms being clean energy online.

However, the NC Sierra Club is working to protect and expand policies that can make rooftop solar more practical.  Putting power on roofs is how NC can become first in solar. Find out more about our campaign and how you can stay in the loop at FirstinSolar.org.

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Wilderness Spotlight: Middle Prong

This month, we take a look at the Middle Prong Wilderness. This protected area was created by the 1984 Wilderness Act which celebrated its 30th anniversary in June.

Comprised of 7,900 acres in Western North Carolina, Middle Prong was once inhabited by the Cherokee and was settled by pioneers in the late 1700’s.  Find a full description of this wilderness area, including pictures and maps, at the most recent blog post on OurWildNC.org.

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Intern Spotlight

Every summer, the NC Sierra Club is lucky enough to have interns help tackle the tasks related to protecting our air, water, and natural places.  This year, we have two top notch interns helping on everything from legislative issues to wilderness and everything in between.

Please take a moment to learn about the great work being done by Brianna van Stekelenburg and Caroline Spence in their intern spotlight profiles and thank them for all that they do.

Click here to read about our 2014 summer interns.

Upcoming Events and Outings

Note: The deadline to participate in the Wilderness Challenge has been extended to July 31Click here for challenge details and to register!

August 22 – 24Outings Leader Training at Hanging Rock State Park

This training is for outings leaders who have taken Sierra Club OLT101 (basic outdoor leadership training) within the last 4 years.  This training will prepare participants to lead overnight trips away from cars (Sierra Club Level 2 outings).

Space is limited and the registration deadline is Wednesday August 6th.

Please contact Kelly Mieszkalski (kellymieszkalski@yahoo.com, 919.624.2225) or Nancy Card (nostalgicnan@gmail.com or 910.540.3088) with any questions.

Click here to register via Eventbrite!

August 2Tree ID Walk (summer edition) – Clemmons State Forest, Clayton, NC

Join the Capital Group for a summertime walk in the woods and tree identification outing. Hike consists of 0.6 miles on the talking tree trail and 0.8 miles on the talking rock trail. Guests may want to bring your bird or tree guidebook or a bottle of water. This is not a backcountry hike and no special skills or equipment are required. Outing is free and open to the public, limited to the first 12 to sign up at: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/tree-id-walk-tickets-12243363229

August 16Shining Rock Wilderness Day Hike – Near East Fork, NC

This hike is part of the Our Wild North Carolina Celebration!  This is a moderately strenuous 10-mile round trip hike that will cross Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain, and Flower Knob to Shining Rock and be at altitudes above 6,000 ft.  For more information, contact Joel Wooten at (336) 466-1314 before 9:00 pm, or joelhike@yahoo.com.  Wilderness outings are limited to 10 hikers. Click here more information.

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Did you know you can make a monthly gift to the NC Sierra Club? Find out how you can make a sustaining gift by visiting our website, or contacting the Chapter office at 919-833-8467.

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