EPA takeover of DEQ's authority a distinct possibility

Stifling the voice of the public is not an acceptable practice:

North Carolina’s recent tactic of blocking citizens from challenging state permits for industrial polluters could result in a federal takeover of the state’s regulatory program. The EPA regional administrator stated that court rulings prohibiting the groups from seeking judicial review of the permits “cast serious doubt” on whether North Carolina meets minimum federal requirements to protect its residents from environmental pollution.

This is the first such warning to North Carolina since the federal government authorized the state to oversee air and water regulation in the 1970s. If the federal government were to follow through, North Carolina would be among a handful of states that have been deemed incapable, or unwilling, to enforce federal anti-pollution laws.

And DEQ's initial and contradictory reactions of denial and deflection simply drive the nails deeper into their casket. On the one hand they claim the EPA "misunderstood" their findings, and needs to be "instructed" on what the law really means. But then the other hand, which can't pass up a political opportunity, tries to pass the blame to Roy Cooper. This illogical, self-defeating type of argument is a product of both hubris and incompetence, a rare combination usually only witnessed on a middle-school playground. Needless to say, they are not the characteristics of an effective regulator.

Sunday News: Definitely not one of McCrory's three "E"s


STATE ETHICS PROCESS NEEDS AN OVERHAUL (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- It was perfectly fitting last week when the Center for Public Integrity gave North Carolina a letter grade of D in a nationwide State Integrity Investigation. Recently, Gov. Pat McCrory announced that the State Ethics Commission had dismissed two complaints which spotlighted his repeated failure to disclose serious conflicts of interest. The same study also gave the Ethics Commission a D grade. The dismissed complaint likely had no influence on the poor grade, but they both underscore a state government ethics process which is derailed, discredited and in need of repair.

Advocates for womens' choice eyeing Supreme Court case

The struggle continues:

Legislators in this state in recent years have tried to enact the two provisions that are the legal issues in the Texas case: requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and requiring abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as same-day surgery centers.

Neither of those provisions survived in bills that became law in North Carolina, although a string of controversial new requirements limiting access to abortions have been enacted.

This may seem more like a "technical" issue than one of rights gained/lost, and that's exactly what the ant-abortion movement is counting on. The real-world impact of Texas' law caused the closure of over half of the geographically huge state's clinics, and it would have a similar effect here in NC. And the purely deceptive tactics of the anti-abortion zealots needs an airing, too:

Saturday News: Les chars disparus

HOLLANDE BLAMES ISIS FOR ATTACKS IN PARIS AS DEATH TOLL RISES TO 127 (New York Times) -- President François Hollande, speaking Saturday from the Élysée Palace, said the attacks were “prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside.”

AT LEAST 127 DEAD; ISLAMIC STATE CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY (LA Times) -- The City of Light turns into a deadly combat zone as a series of explosions and shootings rip through Paris.

Duke Energy's bullying tactics could backfire on them

No matter how much self-righteous indignation they sputter:

Duke Energy welcomes the discussion over the future of energy. And we welcome competition on a level playing field for all. Groups like NC WARN and their allies are certainly welcome to their own point of view on these issues, but not their own facts.

Any company in any industry would be against allowing newcomers to avoid rules, while the same newcomers support continued regulation of others. What NC WARN is doing is similar to driving a car on the highway and saying the rules of the road apply only to others.

Uh, no. That's not what they're really trying to achieve. They're trying to push you into the light, to force your hand in showing everybody how viciously you will protect your monopoly. And you're doing exactly what they thought you would. And when those "free market"-lovers in the General Assembly finally pass meaningful legislation to free up the grid, all you'll need to do is look in the mirror to find someone to blame.

Friday News: Austerity's bitter aftertaste edition


BENEFIT CUTS LEAD TO EMPLOYMENT FUND REBOUNDS, YET JOBS LAG (WRAL-TV) -- Gov. Pat McCrory announced the state's unemployment reserve fund has reached $1 billion, its highest level since 2001. Hitting the $1 billion reserve level will trigger the end of a 20 percent state unemployment tax surcharge. However, about two-thirds of the savings from the overhaul came from steep cuts to jobless benefits. North Carolina now ranks 49th in the country for the percentage of jobless workers who receive unemployment benefits. In September 2014, the state's jobless rate was 5.8 percent, the same as the national rate. In September 2015, it remained at 5.8 percent, well above the national rate of 5.1 percent.

Vicious Liberal media attacks steak-eating House Speaker

Hypocrisy: It's what's for dinner:

The requirement to itemize credit card charges was one of many changes included in legislation to reform campaign finance law that passed the legislature in 2006. Legislative records list Moore among the sponsors of the bill. Records also show Moore voted multiple times to pass the bill. Despite that, Moore’s campaign had never itemized its credit card charges prior to the 2015 audit, according to campaign finance reports filed with the board of elections.

“I disagree with your assessment entirely,” Moore said. “Everything on my campaign finance reports are documented fully. That’s a very unfair question and statement you just made.” When a reporter pointed out to Moore that his campaign had recently amended five years of finance reports, he disputed that. “You are wrong. I mean, my campaign records have been filed the same way over the years."

Translated: "I know exactly what you're talking about, but one of the reasons I have a staff, which includes a Treasurer, is so they can provide cover for me with the BoE, the Ethics Commission, or any other group you think is going to cause me trouble." Before that picture above encourages you to throw on something nice and head out the door, check out some of these charges:

Greensboro moving in the right direction on police bias

A broken tail light should not land you behind bars:

The police chief in Greensboro, N.C., has ordered his officers to stop pulling over motorists for minor infractions involving vehicle flaws like broken taillights, an action he called a first step toward eliminating “alarming” racial disparities in traffic stops.

The chief also promised to better supervise young officers, a response to data showing that four times as many blacks as whites were charged with the sole offense of resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer after traffic stops and other police encounters. “That, too, is alarming,” he said.

Bolding mine. As a society that is supposed to encourage blind justice, we have failed miserably. We've allowed our law enforcement community to freely exercise discrimination, we've allowed our court system to reject black jurors at an alarming rate, and we've done very little to limit the flow of our school-to-prison pipeline. These biased interactions between cops and random minority drivers are just one aspect of the problem, but fixing it can be a game-changer. Especially for the age range 18-25, where the young person's future is a blank slate. Unfortunately, we also live in a society that has become so self-centered a problem doesn't exist until it affects us individually and directly. Some random facebook comments from said group:

Thursday News: Rucho's graceless exit edition


NEARING RETIREMENT, RUCHO REFLECTS ON BIG CHANGES, ‘LIBERAL’ CRITICS (WFAE-FM) -- A fiery state lawmaker from Mecklenburg County is retiring after next year. Republican Sen. Bob Rucho of Matthews has represented the area off and on since 1996. When the GOP gained control of the legislature after the 2010 election, Rucho played a significant role in some of the state’s major legislative changes. WFAE’s Michael Tomsic sat down with him Tuesday and filed this report.


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