3/7/2016: Vote early for the environment

Early voting has started in the most consequential primary for our environment in many years. This week in CIB.

Campaign Watch: Vote Early for the Environment

Early voting is underway now in what may be the most consequential primary election for our environment in many years. At stake are nominations for president, U.S. senator, governor, other state executive branch officers, and state legislators, among other important offices. There is even a statewide bond issue which includes substantial funding for state parks.

subscribers get the inside scoop on NCLCV’s Conservation PAC endorsements. Because of continued commitment to protecting the people and natural resources of North Carolina during his time at the General Assembly and currently in the Attorney General’s Office, the PAC committee is proud to endorse Roy Cooper to be North Carolina’s next governor. Additionally, the PAC is also pleased to endorse three current state legislators facing critical primary races:Rep. Rosa Gill (Wake, D-33); Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (Pitt and Wilson, D-24); and Senator Angela Bryant (Halifax, Nash, Vance, Warren, and Wilson, D-4). NCLCV will be issuing a full release later today.

NCLCV encourages our members and friends to take advantage of the early voting period. Among other advantages, thanks to an interim court order we still have same-day registration available during the early voting period for this primary. If you haven’t yet registered, or you’ve moved and not remembered to update your address, or you discover some other problem with your registration, you can fix it on the spot. That’s only during early voting. On election day, March 15, it will be too late.

Find a link to the early voting sites in your county here. Keep in mind that during early voting, you can vote at any open early voting site in your county. On election day, you would need to go to your physical address’s precinct polling place to vote. Don’t forget that the new voter photo ID requirements are in effect for this primary election, for the first time. You can find details on these requirements and related questions here.

League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund endorsements: NCLCV’s national partner group, LCV, has made two endorsements of direct interest to North Carolina voters.

First, LCV Action Fund has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. As we reported when the endorsement was first announced in November, this was the earliest endorsement of a presidential candidate in the organization’s history. LCVAF cited the strong environmental record of Clinton as a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and candidate for President. It pointed to Clinton’s support for climate and clean energy bills reducing carbon and other pollutants from power plants, repealing ‘Big Oil tax handouts’, and investing in solar energy; environmental justice initiatives; and attention to climate change as Secretary of State.

LCV President Gene Karpinski said, “Hillary Clinton is without a doubt the most effective leader to stand up to Big Polluters and push forward an aggressive plan to tackle climate change and get it done.”

Carol Browning, LCV Board Chair, former EPA Administrator, and Director of the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy under President Obama, commented “With a history of leadership on the international stage and a commitment to protecting public health, Hillary Clinton is the leader we need to meet the climate crisis head-on.”

Second, LCVAF last week announced its endorsement of Deborah Ross for U.S. Senator from North Carolina, for the seat now held by Richard Burr. LCVAF called Ross “a longtime champion for North Carolina’s environment, working to grow the clean energy economy and to protect public health.”

“As a member of the General Assembly, Deborah Ross always put our environment and our families first,” said NCLCV Director of Governmental Relations Dan Crawford. “She consistently and fervently stood up against bad legislation and defended communities from the environmental degradation pushed by the polluter lobby.” Ross scored a 94 percent lifetime rating on the NCLCV Environmental Scorecard for her ten years in the state legislature. The full news release announcing Ross’ endorsement can be found here.

Judicial Watch: Supremes Won’t Block Air Toxics Rule

What a difference a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court makes.

Last week, Chief Justice John Roberts declined a request made by 20 states to place a “stay” (temporary hold) on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule limiting mercury and other toxics in air pollution from power plants. That’s after the full Court, by a 5 to 4 vote last June, sent the same rule back to the agency to have the cost/benefit analysis process redone. Since then, EPA said it would correct the technical process ‘error’ identified by the Court, and the Appeals Court declined to halt the rule’s implementation while the technical correction is being made.

What’s changed? Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the five votes against the rule last summer, recently passed away. Chief Justice Roberts knows that he no longer has enough votes from his colleagues to block the rule. As a result, strong limits on toxics in the air we breathe are still being implemented now, not being stalled off indefinitely (or perhaps permanently).

EPA spokesperson Melissa Harrison said, “These practical and achievable standards cut harmful pollution from power plants, saving thousands of lives each year and preventing heart and asthma attacks” adding that the agency’s calculations show $9 in health benefits for every dollar in compliance costs for the regulation.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says that the mercury/toxics air emissions standards will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, 540,000 missed work days, and 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits each year. Power plants are our largest industrial source of the form of mercury in pollution that damages brains and nervous systems, and this rule reduces those mercury emissions by 80-90%.

Imagine what a pro-environment replacement for Justice Scalia would mean to the future of measures to control climate change—clean up our air—protect clean water—save wildlife, fisheries, and forests—and protect public health. That’s why LCV and other leading citizen environmental groups are telling us that this year there is literally nothing more important to the future of our planet and humanity than to elect a U.S. President and Senators who will nominate and confirm environmentally literate and evidence-respecting jurists to vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Administrative Watch: Citizens Call for Coal Ash Cleanup Now

Citizens called for faster cleanup of more Duke Energy coal ash pits during the initial round of four public hearings held last week on the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) coal ash cleanup plans.

Eleven additional public hearings are scheduled, including hearings this Thursday, March 10, at the following three locations:

  • Pittsboro: Central Carolina Community College, Building 2 Multipurpose Room, 764 West St., Pittsboro.
  • Goldsboro: Wayne County Community College Auditorium, 3000 Wayne Memorial Dr., Goldsboro.
  • Lumberton: Robeson Community College, A.D. Lewis Auditorium, 5160 Fayetteville Rd., Lumberton.

Each of the hearings begins at 6pm. Concerned members of the public are encouraged to attend. Those who wish to speak should show up early in order to sign up.

Citizen conservation groups are working to turn out concerned citizens at all the hearings. Comments can emphasize that all of Duke’s unlined, leaking coal ash sites across North Carolina are high risk and should be cleaned up by moving the toxic coal ash to dry, lined storage away from rivers and groundwater. The communities and people of our state deserve to have clean water, protected from the threat of toxic coal ash pollution.

None of the sites are in fact “low risk” and they cannot safely be capped and left in place to continuing seeping into our water supplies. More than 200 seeps from Duke’s coal ash pits collectively send about three million gallons a day into our waters. It is past time for DEQ to order swift cleanup of these continuing pollution sources.

That’s our report for this week.