NCGA

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy's fine is laughable

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It's all about the context:

While these latest fines might seem steep to those of us who are not huge utility companies, Duke Energy has assets of $120.7 billion. Six and a half million is loose change to Duke, a company whose CEO made $10.5 million the year after the coal-ash spill — a $2.5 million raise from the year before. And even the $102 million Duke agreed to pay the feds is hardly enough to clean up the damage the company caused. As ThinkProgress points out, a study from last year “estimated the ecological, recreational, aesthetic, and human health damages from the spill totaled $295,485,000. And that study looked at only the first six months after the spill, meaning the total damage could end up being higher.”

It's also important to remember: Duke Energy's "cleanup" from the Dan River spill only removed a fraction of the volume of toxic coal ash released into the river, leaving over 90% of the mess where it came to rest. The only thing that's harder to calculate than the total environmental damage done by Duke Energy is the amount of influence they wield in state government and the conflicts of interest generated by their political spending:

Fox in the Hen House, Again.

The "REINS Act" is exactly what it sounds like. A measure that would rein in government by requiring the 'major' rules created by government agencies to be approved by the General Assembly. That's right. ‘Major’ rules would have to go through NCGA, presumably as a piece of legislation. They would go through committees and be passed by both houses, possibly even be signed by the governor. This is what the Locke Foundation proposed last week at an NCGA committee meeting.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

A glimpse into the bizarro world of Republican ideology:

While other states are contemplating decriminalizing drug abuse and opting for treatment methods instead, we're moving to take away *all* medical treatment for drug users, even the life-saving parts. Congratulations GOP, you've set a new standard for wrongness.

Predictably, GOP uses election to justify keeping unconstitutional districts

Elevating shirking responsibility to an art form:

"We trust the federal trial court was not aware an election was already underway and surely did not intend to throw our state into chaos by nullifying ballots that have already been sent out and votes that have already been cast," Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, and Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said in a statement. "We hope the court will realize the serious and far-reaching ramifications of its unprecedented, eleventh-hour action and immediately issue a stay."

"The pressures that we have are not made up. They are real, live democracy questions," Lawson said. "This is kind of democracy in real time, needing to make sure that we have everything ready for elections that, in fact, have already started."

Guess what, Josh? Sweeping tens of thousands of African-American voters into other districts is a "real, live democracy question" too, and leaving that in place is a much harder pill to swallow than the difficulties straightening out absentee ballots. Also, big LOLs to Rucho and Lewis on that "unprecedented, eleventh-hour action" bullshit. How many bills did you guys shove through in midnight sessions, or about fifteen minutes after giving Legislators a 100-200 page secretly-rewritten and glaringly controversial bill that various committees had already rejected? Petard, hoisted. Get over it.

Duke Energy will request rate hikes for coal ash disposal

Because every step they take is a money-making opportunity:

"But we will do everything we can to keep cost impacts as manageable as possible in any potential cost recovery filing that we might make in the future," Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said in an email.

The company said excavating and reburying the coal ash in lined landfills could cost as much as $10 billion. That's more than Duke Energy spent to scrap a quarter of its coal-burning power capacity and open 10 new natural gas and coal plants in North Carolina, Florida and Indiana since 2009, the company said.

And now comes the economic coercion: If you force us to do what we should have done in the first place, bury this toxic mess in lined pits, we will make you pay for it yourselves. Besides, we have better things to do with our profits than fix our own mistakes with it:

Federal court declares two NC Congressional Districts racially gerrymandered

And they've got two weeks to fix it:

After careful consideration of all evidence presented during a three-day bench trial, the parties’ findings of fact and conclusions of law, the parties’ arguments, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the plaintiffs have shown that race predominated in both CD 1 and CD 12 and that the defendants have failed to establish that its race-based redistricting satisfies strict scrutiny.

Accordingly, the Court holds that the general assembly’s 2011 Congressional Redistricting Plan is unconstitutional as violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Having found that the 2011 Congressional Redistricting Plan violates the Equal Protection Clause, the Court will require that new congressional districts be drawn forthwith to remedy the unconstitutional districts. See Wise v. Lipscomb, 437 U.S.
535, 539-40 (1978).

Read it and weep, you anti-democratic right-wing losers.

DisConnect NC: Why the Bond is no longer worthy of support

There's no meat in this shepherd's pie:

The Connect NC bond allocates $1.3 billion or 66 percent of the $2 billion bond issue to universities and community colleges, reflecting Gov. Pat McCrory’s commitment to education. The bond issue is being proposed because most major capital projects such as new educational buildings, particularly those at our universities and community colleges, cannot be paid out of the annual operating budget without a serious effect on students.

It has been 15 years since the last bond issue was authorized to update our state’s infrastructure, and since then North Carolina’s population has grown by 2 million. This growth has resulted in significant infrastructure needs from the mountains to the coast.

Bolding mine. If that is the case, it's a manufactured problem. Capital projects have been funded (sometimes well, sometimes not) out of the annual budget for decades, paid for upfront, and those expenditures did not seriously impact other educational funding. What did (and does) hurt education funding is low revenues, first from the Recession, and now from the ill-advised and ideologically-driven tax cuts for the wealthy. Creating a crisis and then pointing to that crisis to justify other mistakes is sophomoric and reckless behavior, and progressives would be wise to avoid supporting such efforts. As James has mentioned before and Andrew (maybe unknowingly) validated in the 2nd paragraph above, we're likely not going to be able to dip into this bond well again, anytime soon. Doing it wrong (or only partly right) is not an option we should be considering. And what's missing from the current bond proposal is critical:

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