Stand up to carbon pollution in North Carolina

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Friends,

Stand up for limits on carbon pollution: Submit your official comment to the EPA today!

Ian Somerhalder and Mary Anne Hitt
Take Action!

The time is now to act to put historic limits on carbon pollution.

Now that the EPA has finally proposed the first-ever safeguards against carbon pollution from our nation’s aging power plants, we have a real chance to make a difference in the fight against climate change.

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

You can join thousands of others who have already submitted a comment to the EPA or testified at one of their hearings in July. Submit your comment to the EPA today.

 Activists here in North Carolina have been especially vocal, calling on Duke to deal with their carbon and coal ash pollution. Our fights against local coal plants even were featured in the documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously,” featuring Ian Somerhalder.

As we ramp up our climate work here, you can get involved! The first step is to submit your official comment to the EPA supporting their proposed limits on carbon pollution.

This is the beginning of what could be the biggest climate fight in history. Fossil fuel billionaires are mobilizing like never before. But their money can’t match our people power.

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

Thanks for everything you do to protect our environment,

Emma Greenbaum
Beyond Coal Campaign
Sierra Club

P.S. You can also join us in Charlotte for a Citizens’ Climate Hearing on Tuesday, September 9. Click here for more info and to RSVP.

Charlotte Interfaith Call for Action on Climate Change – Sept 9th Citizen Hearing

“We have a moral obligation to future generations to leave our land, water and wildlife better than we found it.”

~ Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of the Interior

from Dealing with Climate Change: A Moral Obligation

Calling all Charlotte area clergy and lay leaders!

We need your voice and that of your congregants for an important Citizen’s Climate Hearing on September 9th at Myers Park Baptist Church. 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan is a historic measure calling for strong carbon pollution reductions to combat the worst effects of climate disruption. Now in the public comment period, the EPA needs to hear from concerned citizens that want strong protections from carbon pollution. This is a critical moment for North Carolinians to make sure our voice is heard. Citizens from across NC will gather at Myers Park Baptist Church to give oral testimony, which will be recorded and submitted as official comments to the EPA. Join us as we call on the EPA to take swift and strong action on climate for North Carolina.

For additional information or questions, contact Bill Gupton or Renee Reese.

Sept 9 Interfaith Call to Action on Climate Change 2Charlotte Interfaith Call for Action on Climate Change

To learn more about the issues and solutions, plan to attend this September 4th  program at the University City Regional Library!

Sept 4 Climate Change Program FlyerSept 4 Climate Change Flyer

 

Sierra Club NC Chapter Legislative Update 8-15-14

Protect Enviro Democracy

Hello Friends,

This week was our second “final” week of short session this summer. And it may not be the last.  As is often the case in the final days of a legislative session, mischief increases towards the end.  For example, a regulatory reform bill that had been considered dead last week returned to life last night and was passed today.

Regulatory Reform – a gift basket for polluting industry:
Conforming with tradition to pass bad environmental bills at the very end of session, the legislature today passed a regulatory reform bill full of giveaways to regulated industry at the expense of the environment. There were several regulatory reform bills in negotiation throughout the session, including S 734 and S 38. A conference report for S 734, which included many old and some new provisions, was made public last night – and passed today; it next goes to the Governor to be signed (unless he were to decide to veto it).

Among the provisions in S 734 that are problematic for the environment are the following:

A provision that would allow a speed limit waiver to be granted for special events in state parks and forests.  It would allow any person to petition DENR to waive the standard 25 mph speed limit in a state park or forest for a special event. According to reports, this speed limit statute is the only obstacle to the Division of State Parks, for the first time, issue a permit for exclusive use of the main attraction of a state park for private purposes (specifically, for auto races). This measure was sought by political backers of Gov McCrory. Opening the door to allowing our state parks to be used exclusively by private groups is a serious matter.  So serious, that if we are heading down that road, it should be properly discussed and debated, not put into a bill without explanation or public review.

Another provision of S 734 would weaken protection for wetlands. The provision would nearly eliminate protection for isolated wetlands in eastern NC by raising the acreage threshold for when a permit must be sought to an acreage higher than the size of most isolated wetlands. The threshold for when a developer must get a permit to impact isolated wetlands eastern NC is currently 1/3 acre. That doesn’t mean isolated wetlands cannot be built upon – just that a permit from the state is required to do so.  Builders’ efforts to avoid permitting requirements actually end up protecting lots of wetland habitat – this bill would remove some disincentive to building in these areas. The provision also would reduce mitigation requirements for impacts to isolated wetlands statewide. Overall this provision is a negative for water quality because isolated wetlands are important for flood control, groundwater recharge and habitat.

Additionally there are several provisions that would negatively impact water quality at the coast, one that would make challenges to CAMA permits less effective by eliminating a stay on development when a legitimate claim is filed and another that would create a new exemption from coastal stormwater rules, essentially creating a windfall for certain properties but having a negative overall effect on water quality.

Representatives Luebke (D – Durham) and Rep. Insko (D – Orange) spoke up against the bill today because of the bad environmental provisions.  A number of the provisions in the S 734 conference report that passed today were not in any prior version of the bill. Apparently, adding provisions in conference that were not in either bill is not acceptable when it comes to protecting groundwater for communities threatened by coal ash, but is fine when it means gutting environmental protections that have served North Carolinians well for decades.

Opportunity for Action:
Please thank Represenatives Luebke and Insko for sticking up for the environment by speaking up against S 734.  And please contact the Governor to ask for a veto of this bill.

Coal Ash Bill Update – Deja Vu?
Its been more than six months since Duke Energy’s facility in Eden spilled nearly 40,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. During this time legislators have promised the public a solution that will protect communities and prevent future disasters. The Sierra Club has advocated for a strong coal ash bill that would require clean up of coal ash at all 14 sites across the state and protect groundwater.

On Thursday the Senate again voted to not concur on the House version of the coal ash bill and re-appointed the same conferees as before (Senators Apodaca, Berger and Wade).  The Senate had previously taken these same steps but then reversed themselves in an apparent late night effort to pressure the House to agree to a coal ash bill without additional groundwater protections that the House demanded.  Since then, the House seems to have not given up on this demand – so the Senate reappointed the same conference committee – indicating that the coal ash bill is still being negotiated. It appears unlikely that that the coal ash bill will be resolved this month. It could possibly be addressed in a November session if the legislature chooses to return then – or in the 2015 long session.

The End?
On Thursday the Senate passed three adjournment resolutions to give the House options to choose from.  The House has not yet chosen an adjournment resolution – so the legislature is not in agreement as to when to adjourn. The House and Senate have scheduled sessions Monday afternoon, but House Speaker Tillis said that may change to Wednesday.

Thanks for your volunteer advocacy!


Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations
Sierra Club – NC Chapter
cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

Citizen’s Climate Hearing in Charlotte September 9th – Put it on your calendar!

EPA Carbon 40%

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan is a historic measure calling for strong carbon pollution reductions to combat the worst effects of climate disruption. Now in the public comment period, the EPA needs to hear from concerned citizens that want strong protections from carbon pollution. This is a critical moment for North Carolinians to make sure our voice is heard. Citizens from across NC will gather at Myers Park Baptist Church to give oral testimony, which will be recorded and submitted as official comments to the EPA. Join Sierra Club and our partners to call on the EPA to take swift and strong action on climate for North Carolina.

Citizen’s Climate Hearing

Myers Park Baptist Church

Heaton Hall 

1900 Queens Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207

6:00-8:00 p.m.

Charlotte Powers Up With Solarize Charlotte!

Solarize Charlotte Single

Solar power for the masses reaches Charlotte

By Bruce Henderson
Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014

MORE INFORMATION: Solarize Charlotte

A three-month campaign to broaden the appeal of rooftop solar systems has declared success in its aim of making them cheaper and simpler for Charlotte-area homeowners.

Solarize Charlotte launched in the hometown of the nation’s largest electric utility, Duke Energy, in April. The volunteer-run program offered discounts on installations and connected homeowners to tax savings and low-interest loans.

“One of the issues we all recognized was that even as solar dropped in price, people saw barriers,” said project assistant Michael Zytkow. “So the goal is to help with everything involved.”

About 600 people expressed interest in the program, of which 186 solicited proposals for systems. Twenty-four homeowners signed installation contracts, six made verbal agreements and 10 contracts are pending. Another 89 projects are still in the consultation stages.

North Carolina ranks fourth-largest in the nation for its solar capacity, says the Solar Energy Industries Association, but that’s mostly because of commercial-scale installations.

Duke Energy says about 1,700 North Carolina customers, most of them affluent, own rooftop solar systems. Solarize Charlotte’s focus included lower-income and non-white homeowners.

Initiative moved east

“My philosophy is that solar should be for everyone,” said Zytkow, whose full-time job is as a Greenpeace field organizer. “My background of activism is in meeting people where they are.”

Solarize Charlotte was an outgrowth of an initiative born in Portland, Ore., five years ago and adopted by dozens of communities under Energy Department-funded guidelines.

A coalition of more than 20 nonprofit advocacy groups and churches brought it to North Carolina. Similar programs have launched in Asheville, Carrboro and Durham.

The Charlotte campaign worked with a solar company, the RED Group, that offered bulk discounts on installations. State and federal tax credits pare the cost, and the program led homeowners to low-interest loans.

Cut cost of systems

All told, organizers say, those incentives could take up to 75 percent off the retail price of a solar system. Typical Solarize systems, including tax credits, cost about $4,500 to $8,000.

Solar panel prices have dropped sharply in recent years, and the arrays are now thinner and more aesthetically pleasing. The expiration of North Carolina’s 35 percent tax credit at the end of 2015 has also stimulated interest.

Still, “it takes a lot of consumer education to get people to the point where they’re ready to go solar,” said Cynthia Redwine, a partner in RED Group, a 2-year-old company formed by former Peace Corps volunteers.

Some potential customers, for instance, believe that net metering – in which utilities give homeowners with solar systems credit for the energy they generate – means they have to live off the grid, she said.

Starting in late April, Solarize volunteers went door-to-door, bought radio ads, staffed festival booths and made presentations to homeowners associations, clubs and churches.

Savings biggest factor

The campaigners pitched the environmental and economic aspects of solar power, but found most people responded to rising electricity rates.

“At the end of the day, that’s what resonates with people – their power bills,” Zytkow said. “One of the first things you hear out there is the idea of these (utility) monopolies. They’re captive customers, and they don’t have any options. A lot of it is rallying around the concept of choice.”

Charlotte homeowner Terry Taylor-Allen, a communications consultant on energy, environment and sustainability, heard about Solarize at a conference and quickly signed up.

Taylor-Allen and her husband, Mark Allen, had considered solar for years but hesitated at trying to sort through its technological aspects and financial viability.

“The very nice thing about Solarize Charlotte is that they sort of anticipate those wrap-around needs and solved those problems,” she said. “From that perspective, it’s a really, really good program. It facilitates a lot of decision- making.”

Their rooftop panels started generating electricity July 14.

Take Action – Radiation Standards, Coal Ash, Clean Air

Take a moment and take some action on these items. Thanks so much!

Sierra Club Currents: News and Action Center

Take Action: Don't Weaken Radiation Standards

Take Action: Don’t Weaken Radiation Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which sets and enforces standards for radiation exposure, is considering rolling back the standard. They need to hear from you! Radiation exposure is dangerous, and it is critical that the highest standard be used when assessing risk.

Take Action
Tell the EPA to keep radiation standards strong!

Take Action: No More Coal Ash Disasters

Take Action: No More Coal Ash Disasters

Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal for electricity, is one of the largest waste streams in the country, with nearly 140 million tons produced each year. This toxic waste, which contains arsenic, mercury, chromium, selenium, lead, and boron, is stored in more than 400 landfills and over 1,000 wet impoundments across the country.

On February 2, 2014, nearly 140,000 tons of coal ash and contaminated wastewater spilled from an unlined holding pond in Eden, North Carolina, into the Dan River, coating 70 miles of riverbed with toxic ash and contaminating the drinking water of eight counties downstream. Despite the potential for more disasters like this all across the country, we currently have no federal safeguards to protect communities and waterways from coal ash pollution.

Take Action
Tell your state legislators that we can’t risk another Dan River disaster. Ask them to support the EPA on finalizing strong coal ash safeguards by the end of the year.

Dan River coal ash spill. Photo: Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins

Grassroots Activism: Thousands Turn Out to Call for Climate Action

Grassroots Activism: Thousands Turn Out to Call for Climate Action

The Environmental Protection Agency held four public hearings in Denver, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., last week to solicit input on its proposed carbon pollution standards. Sierra Club activists and coalition partners showed up in force at all the hearings, calling for clean air and climate action — and significantly outnumbering the opposition.

Way to go, clean air lovers!

Duke Energy Coal Ash Numbers

The following is a re-post from a NC Policy Watch article on 8/4/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon.

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183—number of days since a massive coal ash spill at an abandoned Duke Energy power plant near Eden contaminated the Dan River with 39,000 tons of toxic coal ash and 24 million gallons of ash-contaminated wastewater (Appalachian Voices)

33—number of unlined coal ash pits that Duke Energy has at 14 sites throughout North Carolina (Associated Press: “NC House approves Duke coal ash cleanup bill” – July 3, 2014)

100—percentage of these sites that are currently leaching contaminants into surrounding soil and groundwater (“Unlined and Dangerous: Duke Energy’s 32 Coal Ash Ponds in North Carolina Pose a Threat to Groundwater” National Geographic, March 5, 2014)

100—number of days since Governor Pat McCrory proposed a “coal ash action plan” and called on legislative leaders to work with him to enact it (“Governor McCrory Outlines Comprehensive Coal Ash Action Plan,” Press Release, Office of the Governor, April 16, 2014)

88—number of days since Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said responding to the coal ash spill was one of the top priorities for the 2014 General Assembly session  (“Berger: Drilling, easing regulations, teacher pay on NC Legislature’s to-do list, News & Observer, May 14, 2014)

82—number of days since House Speaker Thom Tillis said coal ash legislation was a top priority for the 2014 General Assembly session (“Speaker sets legislative agenda for state House, WRAL-TV, May 14, 2014)

82—number of days since the 2014 session of the General Assembly session began (N.C. General Assembly)

2—number of days since the General Assembly concluded work in its summer session, with the House recessing until August 14 and the Senate returning November 17 (Ibid)

0—number of bills addressing the coals ash crisis passed by the General Assembly since lawmakers convened for the summer session May 14 (Ibid)

3—number of days since members of the Senate blamed House negotiators for failing to reach a final agreement on coal ash legislation (“N.C. legislature puts coal ash action on hold, Greensboro News & Record, August 2, 2014)

3—number of days since members of the House blamed Senate negotiators for failing to reach a final agreement on coal ash legislation (Ibid)

3—number of days since Governor Pat McCrory issued an executive order calling for cleanup plans at leaking coal ash ponds and surveys at area drinking wells (Ibid)

3—number of days since environmentalists pointed out that McCrory’s executive order merely restates authority state already has under existing law (Ibid)

10—number of registered lobbyists Duke Energy employs in North Carolina state government in 2014 (N.C. Secretary of State Lobbyist registration website)

1.6 million—amount in dollars of combined political contributions from Duke Energy to the campaign committees of Governor McCrory since 2008 and the outside political groups that helped his gubernatorial campaigns (“As Coal Ash Controversy Intensified, Duke Gave Another $437,000 to Help GOP Causes in 2013,” Democracy North Carolina, February 14, 2014)

28—number of years McCrory worked for Duke prior to his election in 2012 (“Institute Index: Duke Energy coal ash spill latest in ongoing regulatory disaster,” Institute for Southern Studies)

Hand Image: Appalachian Voices