Carbon Nation Showing April 2 and 16, Fayetteville

Sustainable Sandhills Sustainable Saturdays Film Series

Carbon Nation

April 2 and 16, 2011,  11:00 am

CAMEO Art House Theatre, 225 Hay Street, Downtown Fayetteville

$6 per person, $5 for Cameo & Sustainable Sandhills members. Tickets sold the day of the event.
“A high energy film about real life American renewable energy success stories. No pie-in-the-sky projects here - everybody's sleeves are rolled up and work is underway!” – Jon Parsons, Executive Director of Sustainable Sandhills
Join Sustainable Sandhills this Saturday for the next installment of our Sustainable Saturdays Film Series. Carbon Nation is a feature length documentary about climate change solutions. Even if you doubt the severity of the impact of climate change or just don't buy it at all, this is a compelling and relevant film that illustrates how solutions to climate change also address other social, economic and national security issues.


Coastal Groins update

Coastal Federation and Locke Foundation Agree:  Groins Should Require Local Vote

Property owners in communities considering building a jetty, called a groin, to control beach erosion should be allowed to vote on the project or on any increases in local taxes that will be used to pay for the structure.
The N.C. Coastal Federation, the state’s major coastal environmental group, and the John Locke Foundation, the most influential conservative think tank in North Carolina, are urging the N.C. House of Representatives to add the requirement of a local referendum to a groin bill it’s considering. The bill would allow jetty-like groins to be built at inlets to control erosion and to protect private property. Such structures are currently illegal in North Carolina because they increase erosion elsewhere along the beach.

"This is a bad bill,” said Todd Miller, the executive director of the federation. “But if the legislature wants to allow these destructive piles of rock to be placed on our beaches, local taxpayers should get a say in whether they want to pay for them.”

These small jetties can cost as much as $10.8 million to build, according to a state study, and as much as $2.25 million to maintain each year.
"The best way to protect local taxpayers is to maintain the current ban on terminal groins,” said John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation. “Short of that, local taxpayers should be allowed to vote on the issue before their community builds a terminal groin. Without a vote, taxpayers will have no voice and no choice but to pay a bill they don’t want and can’t afford for years to come."
The N.C. Senate, concerned about the possible cost to state taxpayers, amended the bill it eventually passed and sent to the House to include a requirement that the N.C. General Assembly must approve any appropriation for a groin, rather than allow the money to hidden in the state budget.
“The legislature gave some protection to state taxpayers by requiring a direct vote on any state appropriation,” Miller said. “Local taxpayers need to same sort of protection.”
The House is expected to take up the bill in the next few weeks.


Legislative Update, NC League of Conservations Voters

Legislative Watch: Dismembering DENR; Turning Off the Green Lights; Hot Rail

Outrageous attacks on past environmental gains continue in the General Assembly.

Dismembering DENR: The N.C. Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is our state's primary executive agency for implementing state laws and programs managing natural resources, and protecting clean air and water and public health. As such, it is the natural lightning rod for those politicians who do not believe in supporting any of those missions. That opposition is now manifesting itself in the open hostility of bills which would cut away key sub-parts of DENR and send them to other agencies. Last week saw the filing of SB 388, "Transfer Forestry & Forestry Council to DACS", joining the previously filed SB 229, "Transfer DENR Soil & Water to DACS". These bills would remove the forestry management and soil erosion control agencies from DENR and send them to the state Agriculture department, which is run by the independently elected Agriculture Commissioner instead of the governor. (The Ag department has traditionally been regarded as more firmly controlled by the agribusiness lobby and hostile to most environmental regulations.) Other proposals would cut away still other offices from DENR and send them to Commerce or the Wildlife Resources Commission. Commenting on these moves, Rep. Joe Hackney (D-Chatham) told the Raleigh News & Observer, "What I perceive is a generalized attack on all parts of DENR. There are some people who want to dismantle it and reduce it to little or nothing. There are others who want to neuter its regulatory side, which the public will not like. The public places a high value on clean water and clean air."

Turning Off the Green Lights: Meanwhile, the opponents of expanding North Carolina's use of renewable energy sources in the generation of electricity are weighing in through HB 431, "Repeal Senate Bill 3 of the 2007 Session". SB 3 (2007) contained both good (i.e., REPS) and bad (i.e., CWIP financing) provisions, but it's on some groups' hit parade today because of its good points: It directs that electric utilities produce a minimum percentage of their electricity from renewable energy resources. Anti-environmental policy groups like the John Locke Foundation have an abiding disdain for green energy, and continue to wail that the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS) will raise electric rates (without contributing to their friends in the oil and nuclear industries). It's uncertain how far HB 431 will progress, since even the power companies now support the 2007 SB 3 as adopted, and have entered into a number of power-purchase contracts from renewable energy sources as a result.

Hot Rail: Rail has become the energy-efficient transportation system that anti-environmentalists love to hate. Incredibly, a Mecklenburg County legislator (Rep. Ric Killian, R-Mecklenburg) has filed a bill (HB 422, "No High-Speed Rail Money from Federal Gov't.") which would turn back a federal grant which includes $152 million now slated to improve rail safety and efficiency in his home county. That's how much of the total grant of $461 million in high-speed rail-enabling track and intersection improvements is targeted for improvements in Mecklenburg. The rest would go to improving track and addressing rail/street intersection problems across the Piedmont between Charlotte and Raleigh. The excuse for this anti-rail money madness is that high-speed rail would cost tax money to maintain on an ongoing basis. However, does anyone wish to bet that Rep. Killian would be...ahem...tarred & feathered & ridden out of town on a rail...by his constituents if he introduced legislation to turn down Charlotte beltway funds on similar grounds? The hypocrisy involved is staggering. Twelve other Representatives (all Republicans) have signed on to this legislation, which would cost North Carolina up to an estimated 5,000 construction-related jobs at a time when the state's unemployment rate exceeds 9%. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Transportation Committee tomorrow (Tuesday, March 29) at noon.

Regulatory Watch: Speak Up for Public Health and a Clean Environment

Two weeks ago CIB advised our readers of a series of so-called "regulatory reform" hearings planned as a means of generating support for stripping clean air and water protections off the rulebooks in North Carolina. Those hearings kicked off last week, and they continue this afternoon in Guilford County.

The good news is that opponents of environmental quality have not had the public stage to themselves thus far. At the first hearing in Wilmington on March 11, supporters of environmental quality were also present in force and spoke eloquently. According to the Wilmington Star-News, area resident Laura Parks kicked off the public comments by reminding committee members, "When you seek to weed through these regulations, know that we also rely on regulations to protect us...We may not be a business, just operating the business of our homes."

Environmental allies cannot afford to rest, however. Several additional hearings are planned by the "Joint Regulatory Reform Committee", including one today (Monday, March 28) from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Jamestown campus of Guilford Technical Community College, 601 High Point Road, Jamestown NC. Speakers will have up to two minutes to address the committee. Sign-up to speak begins at 12:30 p.m. Those who cannot attend can send comments to the committee care of regreform@ncleg.net.

Supporters of protecting clean air and water and public health are being called upon to stand up at these hearings to defend the laws and programs which protect our health and environment. Time and place details for the remaining public hearings (April 4, Winterville; April 15, Flat Rock; and April 21, Raleigh) can be found here: http://www.ncleg.net/documentsites/committees/jointregreform/Joint%20Regulatory%20Reform%20Meeting%20Schedule.pdf.

According to U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), 108 million Americans live within 50 miles of one of the 104 operating commercial nuclear power plants in the United States. How many of them have received any information on emergency response or evacuation alternatives in the event of radiation releases similar to those taking place in Japan now?

Fears also continued to grow regarding the risk of further radiation leaks from spent fuel rods stored in pools outside the damaged reactors. In Japan as in the United States, tons of highly radioactive waste are stored in pools near but outside the reactor buildings. In the United States, almost 72,000 tons of these spent fuel rods are in temporary storage on plant sites, with more than three-quarters of the waste still very hot and sitting in water-filled pools for cooling. The amount of this intensely radioactive waste, which will remain toxic for tens of thousands of years, is currently growing in the U.S. at a rate of about 2,200 tons per year. When pools with the hot spent fuel are not kept filled with water, the residual heat of the rods can melt their casing and release highly dangerous radioactive isotopes to the environment. There is substantial concern that such releases already may have occurred in Japan.

Campaign Watch: Early Attacks Begin Against Environmental Ally

With the 2012 election year still nine months away, an automated telephone call attack campaign has already been launched against environmental ally U.S. Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC13). Miller's Congressional district is considered a likely target of redistricting efforts this year to reduce his support in 2012. In preparation for the expected campaign targeting Miller, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has initiated recorded calls to voters in the 13th District accusing Miller of supporting policies to raise gas prices. The calls implicitly refer to Miller's support for common-sense restrictions on offshore drilling. Miller responds that "according to the Bush Administration's Department of Energy, opening our entire continental shelf to oil drilling without regard to any environmental concern would not lower the price at the pump [for gasoline] at all. No amount of chanting 'drill, baby, drill' is going to change all that."
Education & Resources: Chances to Support Rail Transit
Finally this week, we note that residents of the Research Triangle region will have an opportunity to support development of its local, energy-efficient rail and bus transit system at four public workshops this week (March 28, 29, 30 and 31). For details on when, where, and how, see www.ourtransitfuture.com.