NC DEQ in bed with oil & gas industry


Like Dick Cheney, if you're not a supporter, you're not invited:

Donald van der Vaart, the energy policy adviser for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said in a letter sent to environmental groups last week that the meeting was kept invitation-only due to concerns raised by federal officials.

"The inclusion of special interest groups and industry would allow for the potential of the appearance of influence on the permit application reviews currently underway by the Obama Administration," wrote van der Vaart, who previously worked for the oil company Shell and an electric utility that is now a subsidiary of Duke Energy. "Therefore the joint decision was made to limit the invitation list to federal and state agencies and elected officials to avoid any potential for real or perceived conflicts of interest."

Nice sound byte, too bad the whole spiel was an outright lie. Does van der Vaart think McCrory's idiotic bumper-sticker campaign against the N&O will provide him cover for such outrageous and easily-exposed prevarication? BOEM did *not* request/require the meeting be closed, and there were hordes of special interests not only in attendance, but given a podium to influence government officials:

Yanking away the ladder

NC Policy Watch's Altered State series continues:

The unemployed have been subjected to especially severe treatment. North Carolina cut its benefits to the lowest levels in the nation, from a maximum of $535 a week to $350. The reduction rendered more than 170,000 long-term unemployed residents ineligible for additional federal benefits in the second half of 2013. North Carolina was the only state to reject this federal money, even as its unemployment rate topped the national average.

The lowered benefits have pushed some people into a downward spiral difficult to shake off. Ramona Aragon of Durham lost her job as an administrative assistant in March. It was the first time she’d ever been laid off, and she immediately applied for unemployment benefits while she looked for new work. But 15 weeks went by without her application being processed, and, with her savings depleted, she had to sell her belongings and move back into her parents’ home with her two children, 13 and 7.

As depressing as it may be, revisiting these issues is a critical exercise for advocates and those seeking political change. We can't allow the victims of the GOP's warped worldview to fade into obscurity, because they are still suffering and desperately need a remedy that can only be provided in the voting booth.

Pat McCrory channeling Ben Carson

When your past isn't sexy enough, fabricate something:

“Long before I was elected governor, one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life was to come home after my job was eliminated and tell Ann I didn’t have a job anymore,” the governor says in the video. When he took office in 2013, he continues, “I knew what too many families in our state were going through. Our state had the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country.”

According to a 2014 Greensboro News & Record story about McCrory’s Duke career, Duke eliminated his job as a recruiting manager in 1988, a few months before his wedding. Three weeks later, the company hired him back as its training director – a job with far more responsibility.

And it's very likely that new job didn't come as a surprise to McCrory. When you're planning on promoting somebody in this fashion, you don't keep them in the dark, lest they take a position somewhere else before they get that magic phone call. Meaning, this whole (attempted) tear-jerker about breaking the bad news to his fiancé is nothing but fiction. They probably celebrated.

NC Pre-K floundering: Time for Leandro III lawsuit

Where's the bond to strengthen our human infrastructure?

That’s of concern. But what’s even more concerning is that, as of last month, there’s a waiting list, 500 or 600 deep in Forsyth County alone, of parents who want their children to be in Head Start or N.C. Pre-K, and it can’t go unsaid that the reason they’re not enrolled is the cuts to these programs enacted by the state legislature.

Here are children who want to learn, and parents who want their children to learn. Here’s a state that is traditionally dedicated to quality education for all. And here’s a state legislature that’s more interested in giving raises to UNC chancellors than providing preschool for 4-year-olds in working families. These priorities are skewed.

Their priorities are skewed, and as they've proven numerous times in the past, the GOP leadership will not follow the law unless and until a court decision requires them to. Republicans have made several legal arguments over the last few years in an effort to abandon these children, but the core requirements of Leandro are still in place:

Growing list of coastal municipalities oppose offshore drilling


Swansboro joins in the dissenting opinion:

Commissioners voted 3-1 at the board’s Tuesday night meeting to adopt a resolution opposing offshore oil and gas development and drilling and related seismic blasting activities off the North Carolina coast.

Commissioner Jim Allen said he wasn’t comfortable taking a stand against an issue that state leaders are working on with the federal government. Gov. Pat McCrory serves as chairman of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition. “I don’t think we need to be putting up roadblocks in their way,” Allen said.

If that pro-drilling group were composed entirely of government officials, there *might* be a sliver of credibility in Jim Allen's concern. But those Governors have allowed themselves to become nothing more than oil & gas industry mouthpieces:

Big surprise, Republican boondoggle doesn't work


Which guarantees an extension of the project:

“These preliminary results indicate that nutrient related water quality conditions did not significantly improve in areas of the lake where SolarBees were deployed,” said the report by the state Division of Water Quality, which was sent to the General Assembly on Oct. 1.

“We’ve made a significant investment that pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of dollars that existing Jordan Lake rules would cost municipalities,” Gunn said. “I think, while we did not see movement yet, one summer is not long enough to see if there’s a positive trend. I certainly would have loved to see something more optimistic. But I remain optimistic.”

Yeah, you remain optimistic the Solar Bee distraction will give you a few more election cycles to rake in campaign contributions from your developer buddies and profit from your own real estate sales. We're supposed to believe you give a shit about municipalities in your District? Then why did you vote (twice) to take sales taxes away from Burlington, Graham, Elon, Gibsonville, etc., amounting to over $1.3 million per year? The only thing you care about is flipping properties while preserving your bottom line.

Lee Roberts utilizes "fuzzy math" to justify prison contract

The trail of evidence gets slimier by the foot:

A study submitted to the General Assembly by top prison officials had concluded that private maintenance would result in “no significant savings” for taxpayers, but State Budget Director Lee Roberts criticized that study as flawed.

Roberts said his review was different from that conducted by the governor’s office: “They don’t have the time or the ability to review technical matters.” In December, Roberts said his budget office analysis showed the state would save $1 million a year. (Keith had said the annual savings were $413,000.)

When Art Pope "retired" as Budget Director for McCrory, it was generally accepted that his replacement would be less influential in the Governor's Cabinet. I'm not so sure anymore. Not trying to "excuse" McCrory from any wrongdoings in this fiasco, but he is definitely not a "mastermind" of anything. The new Budget Director (Roberts) and the prison maintenance contractor (Keith) have one possibly big thing in common: They are both deeply involved in the murky world of land/real estate investment and development. And those transactions dwarf the mere $12,000 in campaign contributions Graeme Keith gave to McCrory. Just food for thought, as you ponder which slice of pie you might be able to squeeze in on top of all the other stuff.


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