Sierra Club NC Chapter – Special Legislative Update – Some Good Environmental News

Protect Enviro DemocracyDear Friends,

A mid-week legislative update is in order due to some good news on the House version of the budget. You may have heard that the Senate budget had some bad environmental provisions. We got most of our requests for changes to environmental aspects of the Senate budget (S 744) – in the revised House version, released today, thanks to Rep. Tom Murry from Cary, Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural & Economic Resources.  Representative Murry’s committee removed Senate proposals to put taxpayer funds towards fracking, and at the same time, increased funding for coal ash cleanup and stormwater pollution controls for our most polluted lakes (amongst other changes). The House and the Senate will need to agree on a final budget in the end, so we don’t know that all the improvements will be kept, but its great to see the House going in a positive direction.

Action Recommended:

Please thank Rep. Tom Murry (R – Wake) for his leadership on improving the budget on environmental issues by calling or sending an email, especially if he is your representative. Additionally, please ask your Senator to keep the House budget changes to environmental sections.

Fracking:

The Senate budget contained a provision that would have had taxpayers subsidizing the oil and gas industry by putting $100,000 towards marketing North Carolina’s small shale gas resource to an industry that has shown no interest so far. And $50,000 for an analysis of the chemical composition of our gas; and $973,000 for a no-bid contract – exempt from public contracting laws for test wells and core sample analysis in four parts of the state: the Dan, Davie, Cumberland-Marlboro, and southern Deep basins (click link to see map). Overall this idea seems to be an unnecessary gift to the oil and gas industry that taxpayers should not be shouldering. It was removed in the House version of the budget.

Water Quality:

A special provision in the House budget would add $1,000,000 to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. If passed, the money would be used for the treatment of pollution before it enters the rivers and streams that are drinking water sources. Jordan Lake and Falls Lake are subject to Nutrient Management Strategies, so these funds may help the ongoing pollution problems in these two local water bodies.

Coal Ash:

The House increased funds for DENR salaries overall and increased funds for coal ash positions and operating funds by $500,000. Further, the House budget untied coal ash funding for DENR from the passage of S 729, the Governor’s Coal Ash Action Plan, so that even if the Senate’s bill were not to pass, DENR would still get funding to address North Carolina’s coal ash problem.

There were other improvements to certain provisions affecting agriculture, wells and coastal jetties. Overall, the House version of the budget is much improved from the Senate’s in terms of environmental issues.

Thank you,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

Taxpayer subsidies for NC frackers?

Fracking Drink of Water

Thanks to Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies for this very informative analysis, even though it’s pretty hard to swallow…

This week North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed into law a bill that opens up the state to fracking for natural gas. The Energy Modernization Act will allow drilling permits to be issued 61 days after the state Mining and Energy Commission approves final rules for the industry, which is expected to happen by next summer.

The new law breaks a pledge from legislators that they would review and approve the rules before the state’s drilling moratorium could be lifted. Environmental advocates also criticize the law for failing to adequately address the risks associated with fracking and for weakening safeguards. Supporters claim it will boost North Carolina’s economy.

But it turns out that North Carolina’s Republican leaders are now seeking taxpayer-financed “corporate welfare” for the oil and gas industry — even though the five biggest drilling companies alone hauled in $93 billion in profits last year. As The News & Observer of Raleigh reports:

* The state Senate’s proposed budget includes nearly $1.2 million to help the energy sector with drilling, analysis and marketing.

* McCrory’s proposed budget includes $500,000 for drilling up to three test wells in Lee County, part of the state targeted for fracking.

* A separate $550,000 initiative was approved last year to help the energy industry assess fracking prospects.

The new fracking law also calls on the state to conduct taxpayer-financed studies on locating a liquid natural gas export terminal on the North Carolina coast, establishing a curriculum to train drilling industry workers at Central Carolina Community College, and developing infrastructure to facilitate oil and gas development such as pipelines, compressor stations, and gas processing systems. In addition, it prohibits local governments from imposing taxes on gas produced in their jurisdictions.

This appears to be the direction in which North Carolina’s current political leadership is headed: spending public dollars on a highly profitable industry that imposes significant social costs, including health-damaging water and air pollution. Fracking also releases significant amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate disruption — a serious concern for a coastal state like North Carolina that’s vulnerable to sea-level rise and intensifying tropical storms.

“The state has already spent significant resources in pursuit of fracking, with no new jobs to show for it (beyond the state government staff hired to write the new rules),” NC Conservation Network Policy Director Grady McCallie wrote in his analysis of the new law. “If the legislature had spent a fraction of these resources on renewable energy and efficiency, we would already be seeing the payoff in jobs and income for North Carolinians.”

Read the full article at: NC passes fracking law, seeks taxpayer subsidies for industry

Rein in the fracking industry

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Dear Friends,

Tell EPA to protect our communities and special places from oil and gas drilling.Take action

Take action!

Good news! EPA is considering how to regulate the oil and gas industry.

From beginning to end, fracking only fuels climate disaster. As EPA decides how to regulate this out-of-control industry, let’s remind them we have one chance to get it right and protect our communities and public lands from dirty and dangerous fracking.

Send your letter today, and tell EPA to protect our communities and special places from oil and gas drilling.

Right now, EPA is using outdated information and drastically underestimates how much methane escapes during the drilling process. Pound for pound, methane’s impact on global warming is 86 times greater than carbon dioxide. 1 Will you tell EPA to go back and use the most up-to-date information as they consider how to rein in the oil and gas industry?

The natural gas industry has their eye on a profitable prize — exporting liquefied natural gas to other countries. We already know how fracking pollutes our air and water, how close these drilling rigs are to the places we love, and have seen the extreme weather events fueled by climate-changing gases like methane.

Send your message to EPA. Tell them to take stand against climate change and put the health of our communities before the profits of the oil and gas industry.

Thanks for all you do to protect the environment,

Deb Nardone
Director, Dirty Fuels Campaign
Sierra Club

P.S. Six letter are even better than one! Please share this with five of your friends and family.

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Reference:
1. “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change”, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Sierra Club NC Chapter Legislative Update – June 6

Protect Enviro Democracy

Dear Friends,

This week at the legislature the House took up the Senate budget (S 744) and began marathon meetings to craft their own budgetary proposals. The Senate took a bit of a break and then returned to Raleigh on Wednesday where they were greeted by nearly 80 coal ash lobbyists. Thank you to all the volunteer lobbyists who came to Raleigh to meet with legislators on coal ash lobby day! Lawmakers seemed pleased to have constituents visit and generally expressed support for a strong coal ash bill.

Opportunity for Action

Whether or not you were able to join us for coal ash lobby day – please follow up with your legislators; right now is the key time to make calls and send emails asking for a strong coal ash bill.

Senate Turns to Coal Ash Legislation

The Governor’s coal ash bill (S 729), which was filed by the Senate and the House as a placeholder, was discussed by a skeptical Senate committee on Thursday morning. Senators Tucker, Hartsell, Ford, Bryant, Walters, Rabin, McLaurin and Allran all asked tough questions of DENR Secretary Skvarla regarding a wide range of coal ash issues such as the potential for reuse in concrete, the cleanup timeline, DENR enforcement, pond closure prioritization and public notice. Senator Rabin (R – Harnett, Johnston, Lee) pressed for faster reporting of spills over the “no later than 24 hours” that would be required by the Governor’s bill. And Senator Tucker (R – Union) kicked off a committee discussion about the potential for reuse of ash in concrete; it turns out that North Carolina is actually a net importer of coal ash for that use.  There may be potential for reuse of at least some part of North Carolina’s coal ash.

The Governor’s coal ash plan is a first step in the right direction but is inadequate. The plan does not have deadlines for coal ash clean up and identifies only four of fourteen coal plants as sites where coal ash would be removed to lined storage. S 729 does not direct how coal ash at ten of Duke Energy’s plants should be dealt with, so it could be left in place, and continue to pollute groundwater if the bill, as currently written, were to become law. Some key areas that the Sierra Club asked the Senate to address in a revised bill are: the future of coal ash handling; dates certain for removal of ash and closures; and prioritizing and providing effective standards for the closure of all sites. A good coal ash bill should have a timetable, with fixed dates to close out all wet coal ash ponds and to remove ash to dry, lined storage away from our waterways.

As you may recall, Democrats proposed a strong coal ash clean up bill -H 1226 “Coal Ash Management Act”. But the Senate version of the bill was referred to the Rules Committee, usually where bills go to die. The House version was directed the the Committee on Public Utilities and Energy. Leadership determines what bills get calendared for committees – so the Democrats’ bill may not come to a vote.

Fracking and the Senate Budget

Yesterday, Governor McCrory signed S 786, which lifts the moratorium on the issuance of fracking permits in North Carolina. DENR will be able to issue permits as early as this time next year (after rules for the oil and gas industry go into effect). This summer there will be an opportunity to comment on the proposed rules at several public hearings – we will keep you updated on the dates and locations.

The Senate’s proposed budget would put $100,000 in taxpayer funds towards marketing North Carolina for fracking and $973,000 towards shale gas test wells and core sample analysis in the Dan, Davie, Cumberland-Marlboro, and southern Deep basins. Overall this seems like an unnecessary subsidy to the oil and gas industry. If the state is going to invest public funds in an energy sector – why not in solar and wind – given that North Carolina is known to have excellent resources in both?

Thanks again to all the Sierrans who came to the successful coal ash lobby day!

Best regards,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

Are We Fracking Crazy? Call/Email Your NC Representative Now!

Late yesterday, the House gave tentative approval to S 786, Energy Modernization Act.
The House version of the bill, as amended, joins the Senate in breaking the promise that the NCGA made to the public in 2012 that it would allow any permits to be issued for fracking until a regulatory program was in place, and the legislature voted to proceed with offering permits. The promise to have an affirmative legislative action (vote) after the rule adoption was intended to offer assurances that the legislature would not allow fracking to go forward in NC unless we had the best and strongest rules in the country.
S 786 also ties the hands of local government from taking usual and ordinary measures to limit where fracking can take place, etc.
PLEASE CALL OR EMAIL YOUR HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE NOW and ask that they vote against S 786 (final vote will be at 1:00 pm tomorrow).
To find your representative, go to:  http://www.ncleg.net/representation/WhoRepresentsMe.aspx
To learn more about today’s vote, go to WRAL:
Thanks!
Molly


Molly Diggins, State Director

NC Sierra Club
Thanks to Rep. Grier Martin! Support his call to action!

Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake) on the House floor, May 28, 2014

 

 

URGENT – Stop the Rush to Frack NC

Fracking-chemicals-Graphic

North Carolina’s legislators are going back on their word. The fracking moratorium could be lifted as soon as tomorrow afternoon.
We need you to call and email your representative and tell him/her to keep the promise the House made in 2012 to have a vote on whether or not fracking is right for North Carolina and not act before the rules are finalized.
 
You can email his/her office with this link – http://goo.gl/5KGU2D
Two years ago, North Carolina’s lawmakers said that they would only consider lifting our fracking moratorium if rules were put in place to regulate this dangerous drilling practice. Now, these lawmakers are going back on their word and trying to lift the moratorium before any rules have even been created to protect public safety.
Thank you,
Zachary Keith
Lead Organizer
P.S.
Please tell your state legislators: fracking threatens our health, our communities, and the environment:  http://goo.gl/5KGU2D

Fracking is a controversial method of drilling for natural gas (learn more here). The bill recommended by the Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy does nothing to directly address some of the top threats fracking would bring to our state, such as:

  • Compulsory pooling: This is when a fracking company can force an unwilling landowner to let the natural gas underneath their property be extracted against their will (if enough of their neighbors sign leases). The bill only asks for further study of this practice, but it instead should ban it.
  • Wastewater disposal: Fracking for natural gas creates huge volumes of polluted wastewater. State law already prohibits deep well injection of wastewater, but our state lacks standards for surface discharge of fracking wastewater (the other alternative), and the bill does nothing to address that looming problem.
  • Toxic air emissions: In other states, toxic air emissions from fracking operations have sickened families, destroyed property values, and appear to have caused higher birth defects among newborns nearby. The bill does nothing to address this toxic threat.1
  • Long-term well and property contamination: Contamination of neighbors’ wells and land can show up years after fracking operations have begun – sometimes even after a driller has closed up shop and left. Nothing in the proposed bill provides a solution for people whose health or properties are destroyed by long-term contamination.

Please tell your state Representative that fracking is the wrong choice for North Carolina: http://goo.gl/5KGU2D

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

Act Today – The Senate could approve Keystone XL tomorrow

Keystone XL Urgent Senate Vote: Take action!

Tell your senators:

“The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is all risk and no reward for America. With climate change already harming our communities and pocketbooks across America now is the time for clean energy, not expansion of dirty energy such as tar sands. I urge you to stand against Keystone XL.”

Add your voice:

Take Action!

Dear Friends,

The Senate may vote as early as tomorrow to force the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and reports suggest it could come down to a few votes.

We can’t let a group of senators in the pocket of Big Oil approve this pipeline. Send a message to your senators right now to tell them to say NO to KXL!

Approving Keystone XL would open the floodgates of climate-killing tar sands crude flowing through the U.S. It would ensure more disastrous oil spills, threaten sources of drinking water for millions, disrupt wildlife, and increase rates of cancer and other health problems in Canada and in refinery communities here in the United States.

Keystone XL is all risk and no reward.

If you have any doubt who these pro-pipeline senators are working for, consider this: the senators who are supporting this bill have received $21 million in contributions from Big Oil. On average, each cosponsor of the bill has received roughly $375,000 from the oil industry.1

Take a moment to remind your senators that our climate, our land, our water and our health are not for sale to Big Oil. Urge them to reject this attempt to hijack the review process and approve Keystone XL!

Together, we’ve kept Keystone XL from being built for five years — keeping more than 200 million metric tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere to date. We’ve come too far to have Big Oil write a fat check and buy the approval of this dirty tar sands pipeline from the U.S. Senate.

It’s important that your senators hear from you right now. Take a minute right now to stop the approval of Keystone XL.

Thanks for all you do for the environment,

Michael Marx
Sierra Club Beyond Oil Campaign Director

P.S. Amplify your voice by forwarding a copy of this message to five of your friends and family and let them know how they can help stop Keystone XL. Or spread the word on social media with the share buttons below:

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[1] Oil Change International, Oil money behind Keystone XL Senate bill breaks 20 million dollars, May 1, 2014

Take Action: Oppose Dirty Energy, Support Clean Energy

Speak out today!

Take Action: Stop a Flood of Natural Gas Exports Take Action: Stop a Flood of Natural Gas ExportsLegislation has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would rubberstamp exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. without any review or protections in place for the American public and our environment. This would essentially open the floodgates for natural gas exports, leading to more hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) here at home and more climate-disrupting pollution.

Take Action
Tell your senators and representative to oppose legislation that would rubberstamp liquefied natural gas exports!


Take Action: Tell the Senate to Protect Clean Energy Jobs Take Action: Tell the Senate to Protect Clean Energy Jobs

Last week, the Senate Finance committee moved to extend a package of critical clean energy tax credits, including the production tax credit for wind. We need the Senate to vote on this package immediately to ensure that clean, cheap, American-made clean energy continues to grow.

Take Action
Please tell your senators to bring the EXPIRE Act to the floor and vote yes.

Don’t Miss a Fracking Good Time! – March 27

Please make plans to take part in a powerful event this March 27th at 6:30 PM! Charlotte is one of only 2 North Carolina locations chosen for the national fracked communities tour. You’ll definitely want to hear the stories and learn how we can help protect our air, water, and lands.

STFA-NC-Tour-Meme-5

Can you join us on Thursday, March 27th at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte to hear how fracked communities are fighting back?

Fracking wells, industrial zones, and contaminated water. Those are the realities that people across the country are living with where fracking exists. We know that North Carolina isn’t worth the risk, and some friends are coming to town to help us fight back.

“Cautionary Tales of Fracked Communities,” a nationwide speakers tour, is coming to Charlotte to help us in our fight. It’s a chance to hear from people living in the shadow of gas rigs, and learn how they are fighting back.

Thursday March 27 at 6:30 PM

Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte

 

234 North Sharon Amity Road

Charlotte, NC 28211

Speakers will include:

  • Karen Feridun, a grassroots activist from Kutztown, PA who is fighting against fracking in her community. She helped convince the Pennsylvania Democratic party to add a Fracking Moratorium to their party platform.
  • Jill Wiener, small business owner turned activist from New York who has been leading the charge to keep fracking out of New York.
  • Robert Nehman, a father from Iowa whose life was turned upside down after frac sand mining came to his town

The second part of the meeting will be a training on how to meet with elected officials.

Together, we can keep fracking out of North Carolina, and ensure that the next series of cautionary tales aren’t from the Tarheel state.

See you there!

Fracking Tour Sponsors