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The New Faces and Issues of North Carolina

THE NEW FACES

For the first time since 1870, the Republican party controls both the executive and legislative branches in North Carolina government. With the General Assembly sporting veto-proof majorities in both its chambers, and Pat McCrory’s election making him the state’s first Republican governor in 20 years, the political landscape in North Carolina has morphed.

As the first Republican governor of North Carolina in more than 20 years, Pat McCrory will preside over Republican supermajorities in the state House and Senate.

Whether it’s for the better is undecided, as McCrory has a mixed environmental record. As mayor of Charlotte, he pushed for air quality protection, light rail development, tree preservation and smart urban growth.

McCrory, however, is vocal in his support of bringing offshore drilling and fracking to the state. He sidestepped the sea-level rise debate last year in the state legislature, saying he wanted to wait before “developing harsh regulations against facts that are still being debated.”

His administration will likely cut back on the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ regulatory powers. His pick for head of DENR, John Skvarla, has been the CEO since 2005 of Restoration Systems, an environmental firm that restores damaged wetlands and collects credits to offset development elsewhere.

Since his appointment, Skvarla has commented that he wants to find common ground, as soon as possible, with environmentalists and that determining the most cost-effective regulations will be one of his biggest priorities.

During a recent interview with Laura Leslie and WRAL-TV, Skvarla said that North Carolina is “not going to go backward in air and water quality protection.”

When Leslie asked for his thoughts on climate change, Skvarla said, “I think climate change is a science and I think science is constantly in need of scrutiny.” When she added that 97 percent of qualified scientists agree on the science of climate change, he said he thought that number was misleading. “I have studied this [climate science] every day for 10 years and there is a great divergence of opinion on this,” he said. “I’m not ready to say which is right or wrong.”

To Skvarla, global warming may be an open question of sorts. But right or wrong, 2012 marked a record year for high temperatures, with a 55.3 degree Fahrenheit average across the United States.

THE NEW ISSUES

North Carolina lawmakers are looking to future jobs in energy production to support the state’s economy. From fracking for natural gas in the Piedmont, to drilling for oil and gas off of North Carolina’s coast, the 2013 legislature and newly elected Governor Pat McCrory will move forward with the goal of attracting and building an energy industry presence in the state. Here are a few energy-related issues expected to be addressed this year:

The EPA is currently conducting a major study of hydraulic fracturing's effect on drinking water. The results could come out at the end of 2013.

Fracking: Since last year’s vote to legalize hydraulic fracturing, the 15-member N.C. Mining and Energy Commission has begun developing a regulatory framework to “promote economic development while protecting landowners and the public.” The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has recommended the commission require gas companies to reveal the chemicals used to environmental regulators before drilling. The risks, and benefits, of fracking in North Carolina are still far-off due to established reserves in other parts of the country. But action on fracking in the near-term could indicate how effectively the process will be regulated when it does arrive.

Offshore Drilling: Days before being sworn in as governor, McCrory vowed he would take “immediate action” to form a coalition with coastal border states — South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia — and begin negotiating with the federal government to allow offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. A federal review this year will decide whether oil companies will be permitted to conduct seismic tests to gauge reserves. Eyes will be on lawmakers in Washington and Raleigh, where North Carolina’s coastal communities will speak up for and against offshore energy production.

Offshore Wind: Last month, the U.S. Department of Interior opened 1,900 square miles of seas for wind farm leases and is inviting companies to build and operate offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean. Multiple studies by the University of North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Energy have found that North Carolina has the best offshore wind resources on the East Coast. While some lawmakers have cheered the fortune of strong winds in attracting new industry, others in the legislature aim to repeal the North Carolina’s mandatory Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to meet 12.5 percent of energy demand with renewable sources by 2021.

Air Pollution: Last year, the General Assembly mandated that the N.C. Division of Air Quality review state air toxic rules. As a result, the agency will begin crafting revised rules this month that will ease restrictions on air-polluting industries. The rule changes could increase the pressure on often budget-strained agencies by exempting pollution sources from state oversight if they are covered by federal rules and don’t pose an “unacceptable risk” to human health.

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1 Comments

  1. William Stribling on January 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    It is really discouraging that people all over the country, and in North Carolina, push
    for fracking everywhere, off shore oil, mountain top removals for coal. Not one of
    these production techniques have anything to offer in protecting the environment
    from eventual destruction and collapse. That an oil company would inform us of the dangerous poisons they will use in cracking, what is the point of that? How backwoods dumbass backward can we get. This current Republican regime in place in North Carolina are enemies carnate of our beautiful land, they are putting in
    the process industrial developments that will lead to the end of environment as we
    knew it. I grew up in Asheville, lived in Charlotte and Chapel Hill and over in Gaffney
    in the Piedmont area. My heart breaks when I read this shit, and the stupidity and
    greed that feeds these process. Believe me folks, the Fifth Column is well and alive in North Carolina, and all around. I live now in New York City – as you all know, a bitter battle over fracking is in process here. I do pray that my North Carolina couisns are just as outraged as we are up here. Cuomo (Govenour) is on the verge of approving fracking or not. If he does, he can kiss his 2016 Presidential ambitions good bye. One final thing, why would North Carolinins ever put a Republican government into place? They tell you up front who they represent. And that would be not most of us!



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