Morning Memo: Environmental groups fight back on fracking

Posted by John Frank on October 28, 2013 

A new advertising campaign launches Monday to raise questions about the push from Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican lawmakers to introduce fracking in North Carolina.

The N.C. League of Conservation Voters Foundation is airing 30-second radio ads in eastern North Carolina that warn against a "zombie fracking policy." McCrory and state Sens. Thom Gooslby, Wesley Meredith and Ron Rabin, all Republicans, are targeted in the ad campaign.

The ads question the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water and air quality and put the onus on the lawmakers who voted to open the state to drilling. "Now big oil and gas companies like Halliburton don't even want to tell us what's in the toxic chemical brew they'll be pumping into our land," the script says. "That's scary."

At the same time, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based environmental organization, is debuting Halloween-themed web ads that echo the radio spots. McCrory and the three GOP lawmakers are again the target. See one of the web ads here.

The environmental groups are stepping up their fight as the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission considers rules to require drilling companies to disclose chemicals used in fracking. The commission punted on the issue again this week, meaning lawmakers may need to step in and set the standards.

***Get a full roundup of North Carolina political news and intelligence below in today’s Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: An advocacy organization supporting the federal health care law will join with two state lawmakers Monday to call for a special session to reconsider the state's decision not to expand Medicaid. Rep. Larry Hall and Sen. Mike Woodard, both Durham Democrats, will make the push at the 11 a.m. press conference in front of the state legislature, joining Protect Your Care NC advocates and others.

Meanwhile, Gov. Pat McCrory will tour Altec Industries at 10:30 a.m. and then Glen Raven Technical Fabrics at noon in Burnsville.

THOM TILLIS GETS HELP FROM BOEHNER, McCONNELL: GOP congressional leaders have helped North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis to a wide fund-raising lead over his Republican U.S. Senate challengers. ... House Speaker John Boehner’s political action committee gave him $10,000. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s PAC gave $5,000. Three other Republican senators also contributed. Read more here.

RICHARD BURR WON’T MAKE TORTURE REPORT PUBLIC: In August, more than 190 North Carolina religious leaders and other Christians, Jews, Quakers and a Muslim chaplain wrote to Sen. Richard Burr, urging him to support the release of an investigation into the post-9/11 treatment of terrorism suspects.

This past week, the Winston-Salem Republican replied, saying he opposed making the 6,000-page report public. “I was deeply concerned about the factual inaccuracies contained within the report, including inaccurate information relating to the details of the interrogation program and other information provided by detainees,” Burr wrote. “I believe the American public should be provided with reports that are based on accurate facts.”

The letter exchange is the latest in a national debate about how much Americans should know about the detention and interrogation program begun after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including water-boarding, or near-drowning, and other methods used to try to force detainees to talk. Reports of those methods sparked a national debate on torture. Read more here. 

BUSINESS LEADERS UNEASY ABOUT COMMERCE PRIVATIZATION: From the N&O story -- If the crowd at the Benton Convention in Winston-Salem is any indication, there is still a lot of confusion about what the biggest change in the state’s economic development system in decades will look like. “The unknown is the big question,” said Bobby Dodd, president and CEO of the Yadkin Chamber of Commerce. “The sooner you can get everything in place, the better.’’

“The whole privatization decision scares me,’’ said Henry Fourrier, president/CEO of the Greensboro Convention and Visitors Center, who expressed concern that tourism funding would be reduced.

Marc Schaefer, chairman of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, said he needed to learn more about how the pubic-private partnership would work before judging it. “We don’t know what it’s going to look like,” said Schaefer, who is president and CEO of Truliant Federal Credit Union. Read the full story here.

OBSERVER ENDORSES GOP FOR MAYOR: The Charlotte Observer editorial board endorsed Republican Edwin Peacock in the city's mayor's race. It wrote: We recommend Edwin Peacock. He is sincere in his commitment to give of himself through public service. We have faith in his integrity and confidence in his intention to make decisions based on what’s best for the city, not just for himself.

Peacock is a throwback to the politics of yesteryear, when Democrats and Republicans had their differences on policy yet chose not to emphasize those differences but to work through them. It’s the brand of politics this city was built on and the kind that’s needed to ensure its continued health. Read more here.

N.C. GOP PUSHING STATE JOBS TO ITS MEMBERS: The N.C. Republican Party is helping Gov. Pat McCrory recruit like-minded applicants to fill hundreds of state government jobs.

The party’s executive director sends a weekly notice to county GOP leaders advertising available state jobs – anything from a pianist at a state developmental disability center to a tax auditor at the Department of Revenue. The move is raising concerns about the politicization of the state government workforce and comes shortly after the McCrory administration faced pressing questions from lawmakers about its hiring practices.

"We haven't had a Republican administration in this state in over 20 years and our state government is full of Democrat bureaucrats," Todd Poole said. "If a few Republicans get jobs, I'll take our Republican bureaucrats over Democrat bureaucrats every day." Read more here.

DEMOCRATIC BLOGGER on McCrory’s visit to Virginia: “He doesn't get it, but NC Governor Pat McCrory is actually giving instruction to Ken Cuccinelli on how not to govern.” Read more here.

INCOME TAX HAS ROOTS IN N.C.: From Rob Christensen’s column -- This month marks the 100th anniversary of the federal income tax. Break out the balloons. Well, maybe not. But like Pepsi and Cheerwine, the federal income tax was, if not born in the Carolinas, at least midwifed here.

For that we can thank U.S. Sen. Furnifold Simmons, a Democratic and a Jones County tobacco and cotton farmer, who represented the state from 1900 to 1930. It was the longest run of any North Carolina senator until it was equaled by Republican Sen. Jesse Helms a couple of generations later. Read more here.

UNC-G PROF TRIES TO HARNESS INDEPENDENT VOTERS: Having witnessed a rancorous government shutdown and near breach of the federal debt ceiling, plenty of Americans are pessimistic about where we’ll go from here as a country. Just don’t count Omar Ali among them.

The historian and associate professor of African American Studies at UNC Greensboro believes “we’re at the very beginning of a transformation in American politics”and he’s helping shape it as co-founder of North Carolina Independents, a nonpartisan association of independent voters focused on political reform. The group, an affiliate of the national organization IndependentVoting.org, has developed a network of about a thousand active supporters across the state. In the past few weeks alone, it has seen a surge of interest from fellow residents worn out by the unending warfare between Republicans and Democrats. Read more here.

THINK TANK WANTS TO REFORM UNC-CH TEACHING: A new report from a right-leaning think tank critiques UNC-Chapel Hill’s general education curriculum, calling it “incoherent,” a smorgasbord of thousands of classes with “very narrow — even trivial —topics.”

The study from the Raleigh-based John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy suggests shrinking the available courses at the university from over 4,000 to about 700 and zeroing in on a short list of essentials — history, statistics, logic, philosophy, western civilization, literature, arts, writing, science and political and economic systems. It recommends two instead of three foreign language courses and the elimination of university’s physical education and “experiential” learning course requirements. Read more here.

FOUNDATION IN HAHN’S NAME LAUNCHES: ... So it made sense that when the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation had its launch weekend, the volunteers’ day of service on Saturday centered around the Raleigh Interfaith Food Shuttle. More than 100 volunteers worked at two locations in Raleigh to honor Hahn, who was fatally stabbed in her home in April. Volunteers, many of whom knew Hahn, helped around the food shuttle’s farm, and others helped bag and deliver food at the main building.

“She really respected the Interfaith food shelter and what they were doing,” Pearce said. “We thought it’d be a great way to honor her.”

The day of service was the second event of the foundation’s launch weekend. It began Friday night, which would have been Hahn’s 30th birthday, with a celebration in honor of Hahn’s life. After Saturday’s day of service, the foundation hosted a small concert at Lincoln Theatre. Read more here.

AG COMMISSIONER ON FAIR MISHAP: Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said fair officials were “deeply shaken” by the accident, but he also called it an isolated incident and said he hoped it wouldn’t discourage people from coming to the fair. “I still feel confident that my grandchildren can ride these rides,” he said. Read more here.

UNC-CHAPEL HILL PROFESSOR WRITING IN NEW YORK TIMES: “It’s tempting to dismiss a Republican single mom as a dupe persuaded to vote against her own interests, a victim of what Thomas Frank called “the politics of self-delusion.”

“This assessment is misguided. One polling firm called single mothers “the largest progressive voting bloc in the country,” but Democrats should not take single moms for granted, even as Republicans have shown that they would rather sabotage the basic functions of government than extend the social safety net. The single mothers who reject the politics of their peers tell us something about the limits of the liberal effort to redefine cultural ideals.“ Read more here.

ICYMI -- Roy Cooper featured in the NYT last week. A14: The criticism could not have been much harsher: North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature had set out to undo 50 years of progress with a Tea Party-inspired "playground of extremist fantasies" that include tax giveaways to its richest residents and election law changes that make it harder for residents to register and vote.

But the author of that scathing assessment in The Huffington Post last week was the North Carolina attorney general, Roy Cooper, a Democrat and the man whose job it is to enforce those laws, including the voting changes that have already become the subject of a federal lawsuit. Read more here.

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