CPG Sierra Club Urges County to Ban Smoking in Parks and Greenways

On behalf of our over 2,000 members, the Central Piedmont Group Executive Committee has voted to support the proposed ban on smoking on the property of all government buildings and to ban all tobacco use at county parks, greenways and golf courses. We urge our members and supporters to contact their elected County Commissioners (http://charlottesierraclub.org/political-2/mecklenburg-board-of-county-commissioners/) regarding the ban.

Below is the letter sent to our Mecklenburg County Commissioners.

Meck Smoking

2nd Charlotte Bus to New York City – Limited Seats, Sign Up Today!

I’m pleased to announce that we have secured funding for a second bus from Charlotte to New York City for the Sept 21 People’s Climate March!!!!! This brings the number of confirmed PCM North Carolina buses to 7!

There are a limited numbers of seats and we expect the bus to fill up fast. Reserve your seat at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/charlotte-bus-to-nyc-peoples-climate-march-2nd-bus-tickets-12941459253.

 

Charlotte to New York City for the People’s Climate March – 2nd Bus

Tentative Timetable
Exact times and locations are being finalized and will be announced shortly.

Saturday, Sept 20 – Location TBD. Sign in at 7:30 PM. Bus pulls out at 8:00 PM sharp!

Sunday, Sept 21 – Stop along New Jersey Turnpike for breakfast. Drop off in NYC at 9:00 AM.
Participate in March (11:30 – 3:30, approximate times). Pick up in same location (Time TBD).

Monday, Sept 22 – Arrive Charlotte approximately 4:00 AM (same location)

Cost (Round trip)
General ticket – $25 + $2.37 Eventbrite fee

Register Today – Only 55 total seats available!
Please register by Monday, Sept 8th, to assure your seat!

Yes!, I want to Get On The Bus

For more information contact: Bill Gupton at wmgupton@aol.com

2nd Charlotte Bus Flyer2nd Bus PCM Charlotte to NYC

Charlotte Energy Strategy Meeting – Sept 4, 12:00 PM

The City of Charlotte Economic Development  & Global Competitiveness Committee will meet Thursday, September 4, 2014 at Noon in Room CH-14 of the Government Center to discuss our future “Energy Strategy”. While you cannot speak during the City committee meetings, you might just catch them before or after the meeting and share your thoughts and concerns about our energy future. Attending committee meetings demonstrates your interest in and concern about agenda issues.

It’s interesting that the City is discussing our Energy Strategy when we don’t even have a Sustainability Plan! Check out some the resources below to see what other cities are doing in this area. Feel free to send the committee members these links along with your thought on our Charlotte Energy Future!

Charlotte Economic Development and Global Competitiveness Committee Members

 

Char Eco Dev Comm Mtg Sept 4 20142014

List of Top 20 Most Populous Cities in the U.S., and Corresponding Sustainability Plans

This list includes information and links to sustainability plans and initiatives created by large cities in the U.S. – http://sustainablecities.asu.edu/docs/scn/top-cities.pdf

Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series

The Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series gives a straightforward overview of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction strategies that local governments can use to achieve economic, environmental, social, and human health benefits. The series covers energy efficiency, transportation, community planning and design, solid waste and materials management, and renewable energy.

http://epa.gov/statelocalclimate/resources/strategy-guides.html

Sustainability Plan / Energy, Climate Change and Ozone Depletion / Strategy

Goal 1 – To reduce overall power use through maximizing energy efficiency. http://www.sustainable-city.org/Plan/Energy/strategy.htm#GOAL1

Goal 2 – To maintain an energy supply based on renewable, environmentally sound resources. http://www.sustainable-city.org/Plan/Energy/strategy.htm#GOAL2

Goal 3 – Eliminate climate-changing and ozone-depleting emissions and toxics associated with energy production and use. http://www.sustainable-city.org/Plan/Energy/strategy.htm#GOAL3

Goal 4 – To base energy decisions on the goal of creating a sustainable society. http://www.sustainable-city.org/Plan/Energy/strategy.htm#GOAL4

Resolution Adopting a Sustainable Energy Strategy – Las Vegas 2008

http://sustainablecities.asu.edu/docs/SCN/1-25-12/JeffDix_Resolution_LasVegas.pdf

 

What would your parents say if you brought home this report card?

2014 Report Card Summary

Thanks to Meg Fencil, Education and Outreach Program Director for Sustain Charlotte, for a great presentation at our August Monthly Meeting!

Click below for a link to the Executive Summary of the report. You really should read the entire report which is available at 2014 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Sustainability Report Card.

The August 21st edition of WFAE Charlotte Talks focused on the report. You can listen to the show using the link below.

2014 Sustain Report Exec SummarySustain Charlotte 2014 Sustainability Report Executive Summary

Note: The national comparison grade for any given metric was based on the percent difference between the values from the most recent year for which both national and local data were available, not the percent difference between multi-year averages for national and local. We had considered calculating it by both of these methods, but ultimately decided on the “snapshot” comparison of the most recent year. This calculation method has the advantage of highlighting the most up to date progress (or lack thereof). The downside is that because it’s based on comparison of only two data points, an anomalous year could drive the national comparison grade. For example, if Charlotte has a year with unusually low ozone concentrations due to a rainy and cloudy summer, we could receive a favorable national comparison grade that doesn’t reflect the true baseline situation. As we consider how to revise the methodology for future reports, we’ll take these concerns into account to paint as clear a picture as possible of both our absolute ranking and trend over time for the metrics.

Want to hear a discussion of the report?

Charlotte’s Sustainability Report Card by WFAE

We’ve talked a lot about sustainability – the state and quality of Charlotte’s air, water, energy use and more – and whether or not Charlotte is headed for a sustainable future. But now, the non-profit Sustain Charlotte has used the power of data to compile and compare nine different categories into one study, the first of its kind. The group rates our local sustainability trends, and compares them to national trends in air quality, energy use, equality and empowerment, food, jobs and income, land use, transportation, waste and water use. So, how are we doing? The report shows we’re making progress on energy use, and the area’s water use per household is lower than the national average. But we’re lagging behind when it comes to transportation and land use. And food insecurity and childhood poverty are on the rise.

Guests

Shannon Binns – Founder and Executive Director, Sustain Charlotte

Dena Diorio – Mecklenburg County Manager

John Autry - Charlotte City Councilman and Chairman of the council’s Environment Committee

Listen to the full broadcast here.

P.S. For a top line review, check out 15 takeaways from Sustain Charlotte’s Sustainability Report Card by Ana McKenzie of Creative Loafing.

Review: Major environmental and coal ash bills from the 2014 short session

Thanks to the NC Conservation Network for this excellent summary of the major environmental and coal ash bills from the 2014 short session!

NC Conservation Network Legislative Update

Short Session Wrap

After a very long three months, the NC General Assembly wrapped up the 2014 Short Session in August. The legislature adjourned sine die, meaning that it will not be returning in November to work on Medicaid legislation as it had earlier planned.

The short session was marked by three significant pieces of environmental legislation: fracking, regulatory reform and coal ash.

SL 2014-4 (S786 Energy Modernization Act)

This year’s fracking legislation was most notable for breaking the legislature’s 2012 promise to review the final rules developed by the Mining and Energy Commission before lifting the state’s fracking moratorium. Instead, the Energy Modernization Act will automatically allow DENR and the MEC to begin issuing permits beginning on the 61st calendar day following the date that all rules become effective.

The Energy Modernization Act also:

  • Weakens protections for groundwater wells by reducing the area of presumptive liability for contamination
  • Preempts local ordinances that prohibit oil and gas exploration, development and production activities
  • Reduces the amount of time available to the legislature to review the package of fracking rules developed by the MEC
  • Makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to improperly disclose trade secret information related to hydraulic fracturing fluids

S734 (Regulatory Reform Act of 2014)

Following an annual trend, this session saw the passage of yet another regulatory overhaul with key environmental provisions. The final version of the Regulatory Reform Act represented only a portion of the provisions that were introduced at the beginning of the session, but the provisions that remain will result in significant environmental rollbacks.

Most notably, the Regulatory Reform Act:

  • Prohibits the Coastal Resources Commission from establishing or maintaining inlet hazard areas with certain characteristics
  • Weakens regulatory protections for isolated wetlands
  • Exempts development activities on certain properties from coastal stormwater rules
  • Provides that a CAMA permit contested by a third party will not be automatically suspended pending the contested case
  • Automatically subjects all state regulations stronger than federal minimum standards to legislative review

Provisions that were present in earlier iterations of regulatory reform legislation but were not included in the Regulatory Reform Act include:

  • Restrictions on third party challenges to air quality permits
  • Special privilege and immunity provisions for entities that conduct self audits and voluntarily disclose environmental violations
  • A requirement that DENR remove all ambient air monitors not required by federal law

S729 (Coal Ash Management Act of 2014)

After a significant period of debate and internal negotiations, the legislature passed a final coal ash bill on the last day of the short session. Governor McCrory has voiced concerns over the constitutionality of the Coal Ash Management Commission, a key piece of the legislation, but he is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.

The Coal Ash Management Act creates a complex framework that addresses existing coal ash sites on a tiered priority scale. Several key provisions include:

  • A prohibition on local ordinances that regulate or have the effect of regulating coal ash
  • Language aimed at undermining a recent court ruling requiring Duke Energy to immediately eliminate the source of groundwater contamination at its coal ash facilities
  • The establishment a new Coal Ash Management Commission to be located within the Department of Public Safety
  • Closure standards for low, intermediate and high risk impoundments, with the impoundments at the Sutton, Asheville, Dan River and Riverbend facilities automatically categorized as high risk
  • Deadlines for phasing out the wet handling of coal ash
  • Requirements for structural fill projects over a specified size
  • Regulation of coal ash as a solid waste
  • Dam safety requirements
  • The creation of 30 positions within DENR and the Department of Public Safety for coal ash management
  • The establishment of a new regulatory fee to pay for the costs of DENR oversight and the Coal Ash Management Commission

In addition to the legislation described above, several additional environmental bills made their way to the Governor’s desk this session.
SL 2014-95 (S883 – Mitigation Buffer Rule/Wastewater Treatment)

  • Disapproves recently adopted riparian buffer rules and instead directs the EMC to adopt rules resulting from a limited stakeholder process

SL 2014-103 (H366 – NC Farm Act of 2014)

  • Provides that complaints of violations against agricultural operations will be confidential until DENR determines that a violation has occurred
  • Restricts the local regulation of fertilizer
  • Classifies trespassing in an agricultural facility as a first degree trespass punishable as a Class A1 misdemeanor or Class H felony
  • Exempts drainage districts from riparian buffer rules

A full summary of the bills that passed during the 2014 short session is available here. Next year’s long session will begin with a clean slate of bills and likely a number of new legislators following the November elections.

The Legislative Update will return in January for the 2015 long session – enjoy the break!

Coal Ash

This year’s lengthy coal ash debate began shortly after the Dan River spill in February, which by Duke Energy’s estimates released up to 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. Following the spill, the Environmental Review Commission began to study the issue, and the General Assembly ran through several versions of potential coal ash legislation. Governor McCrory joined the fray by releasing his own proposal, and several bills were introduced by both the House and the Senate:

H1226 (Coal Ash Management Act of 2014)

Primary sponsors: Representatives Harrison, Fisher, Glazier and Luebke
H1228 (Governor’s Coal Ash Action Plan)

Primary sponsors: Representatives McGrady, Samuelson and Hager

S856 (Coal Ash Management Act of 2014)

Primary sponsor: Senator Woodard

S729 (Coal Ash Management Act of 2014)

Primary sponsors: Senators Apodaca and Berger

Ultimately, S729 moved forward and passed out of the Senate in June. In July, the House passed a version of the bill that while very similar to the Senate version, added several significant new elements:

  • A variance procedure that would allow for extended closure deadlines
  • Language aimed at undermining a recent court ruling requiring Duke Energy to immediately eliminate the source of groundwater contamination at its coal ash facilities
  • Placement of the Coal Ash Management Commission within DENR

The Senate failed to concur with the House version of the bill due in large part to the addition of the variance provision and the relocation of the Coal Ash Management Commission, and a conference committee was appointed and tasked with coming to an agreement over the final version of the bill. The conference committee was comprised of: Senators Berger, Apodaca and Wade; and Representatives McGrady, Hager, Samuelson and Glazier. Representative Moffitt was also added to the conference committee during final negotiations.

After fewer than two weeks of negotiations, the conference committee was unable to come to an agreement and negotiations reportedly broke down over standards for low risk impoundments. At first it was announced that the legislature would take a hiatus on coal ash and possibly return to the issue in November. Instead, the conference committee returned to its negotiations in mid-August and quickly produced a conference report that had the support of all conferees.

The final conference report bridged some of the conflict between the House and Senate by placing limitations on the variance provision and adding language that would only allow DENR to approve capping in place for a low risk impoundment if the closure plan includes “design measures to prevent, upon the plan’s full implementation, post-closure exceedances of groundwater quality standards beyond the compliance boundary.” It also placed the Coal Ash Management Commission within the Department of Public Safety, satisfying the Senate’s concerns over its placement within DENR.

Fewer than 24 hours after releasing the conference report, both the House and Senate voted to approve it, sending it to the Governor’s desk and adjourning sine die to end the short session.

The final vote on the House floor received a considerable amount of debate, with a number of House Democrats voicing their concerns over various pieces of the bill. The majority of the debate focused on the bill’s failure to ensure that ratepayers would not be responsible for covering the costs of Duke Energy’s cleanup.

Representatives Alexander, Harrison, Martin, Insko, Luebke and Baskerville spoke against the bill, articulating concerns related to cleanup costs, ongoing groundwater contamination and the attempted undermining of a Superior Court ruling mandating immediate cleanup. Representative Harrison summarized her thoughts by thanking the conferees for their hard work, but stating that she wished the bill was stronger, particularly with respect to cleanup costs and the undermining of the Superior Court ruling.

Meanwhile, Representatives McGrady, Queen and Catlin spoke in favor of the bill as an important first step in managing coal ash. Following the debate, the conference report was approved by the House with a vote of 84-13.

The same evening, the Senate approved the conference report with very little discussion and a vote of 38-2. Senators Foushee and Van Duyn voted against the conference report, joining 13 of their colleagues in the House.

Governor McCrory has not yet signed the Coal Ash Management Act into law, but is expected to do so despite his concerns over the constitutionality of appointments to the Coal Ash Management Commission.

The final version of the bill is detailed in the 2014 summary of legislation here.

Calling All Charlotte Clergy, Lay Leaders, and Congregants – Speak Out on Climate Change Sept 9th

“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

We need your voice on September 9th at Myers Park Baptist Church for a Citizen’s Climate Hearing on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

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.

What can you do?

As a Charlotte clergy – Plan to attend and speak! Ask other clergy to join you. Post the flyer and/or an announcement on your website and on your calendar. Include an announcement in your e-updates. Mention the hearing at your Sabbath service this coming weekend and encourage your congregants to join you. Spread the word!

As a Lay Leader – Plan to attend and speak! Ask other lay leaders to join you. Make sure that there are hearing announcements on your website, calendar, etc.  Spread the word through your networks of friends and on social media.

As a Charlotte Congregant – Plan to attend and speak! Ask other congregants to join you.  Spread the word through your networks of friends and on social media. Commit to bringing 3 friends with you.

Charlotte Interfaith Call for Action on Climate Change

Free Solar Tours Preceding the Hearing – 5:00 and 5:30 PM

Citizen’s Climate Hearing
September 9th
Myers Park Baptist Church
Heaton Hall
1900 Queens Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207
6:00-8:00 PM

 
Format
• Please limit oral comments to 3 minutes (typically 400 – 450 words)
• Please bring a copy of prepared comments for the court reporter (optional)
• Written comments may be of any length and submitted without public speaking

For more information, contact Renee Reese sierraclub.centpiedpublicity@gmail.com.

See also our Facebook Charlotte Citizens’ Climate Hearinghttps://www.facebook.com/events/845313815488006/

Interfaith Citizens Hearing 3Charlotte Interfaith Call for Action on Climate Change

Reminder – Monthly Meeting Tonight, Aug 27 at 6:30pm, “Char-Meck Sustainability Report”

Sustain Charlotte 2014 Report Card

Please join us on August 27 for a presentation of Sustain Charlotte’s just released 2014 Charlotte-Meck Sustainability Report Card. Over a year in the making, this Report Card reviews the status of nine major categories relevant to our overall sustainability, including comparisons with national trends, and with suggestions as how we can improve. Overall compared with national trends Charlotte-Meck gets a “C”. Given that the Charlotte City Council has chosen to have ” … be a global leader in sustainability …” as one of its’ focus goals, this letter grade is disappointing.

Sustain Charlotte will be represented by Meg Fencil who will conduct the presentation and discussion.

As usual, pizza will be served around 6:30pm. We will have a short business meeting at 7pm. And the formal presentation will begin around 7:15pm.

We meet at the Mahlon Adams Pavilion in Freedom Park, 2435 Cumberland Ave., Charlotte, NC. Plenty of free parking is available.

See you there for this timely presentation.

David Robinson
Chair, Central Piedmont Group Sierra Club