Morning Memo: Pat McCrory pressed on global warming views

Posted by John Frank on February 17, 2014 

Gov. Pat McCrory’s skepticism about climate change and its causes went national Sunday as the Republican appeared on two network TV morning shows.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and CBS’s Bob Schieffer hosted McCrory to talk about the recent winter storm that hit North Carolina. But climate change became the story when they revived a quote from McCrory’s 2008 campaign in which he said global warming “is in God’s hands.”

Both asked whether the governor still felt the same way. To Schieffer on Face the Nation, McCrory disputed the quote – wrongly so, as WRAL pointed out – and swerved around the issue in both shows.

He told CBS: “I feel there has always been climate change. The debate is really how much of it is man-made and how much will it cost to have any impact on climate change. My main argument is let’s clean up the environment. And as a mayor and now as a governor, I’m spending my time cleaning our air, cleaning our water and cleaning the ground. And I think that’s where the argument should be on both the left and the right. And if that has an impact on climate change, good.”

McCrory echoed the sentiment on ABC’s This Week: “Well, I believe there is climate change. I’m not sure you can call it climate warming any more, especially here in the Carolinas.

“I think the big debate is how much of it is man-made and how much will just naturally happen, as the Earth evolves. And the question then is what do we do about it, and how much it will cost the consumer.”

Neither show asked the obvious follow up question: Governor, how much do you think current global warming is attributable to man and how serious of a problem is it?

McCrory and his Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary have avoided the topic in the past, leaving open questions as to the administration’s view on the science.

Contrast McCrory with Secretary of State John Kerry, who on Sunday called climate change perhaps the world’s “most fearsome” weapon and mocked those who question its causes. Read more on Kerry here.

*** The snow is melting and the conversation turns back to politics. Get the rundown below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory is attending the Carolinas PGA board meeting in Greensboro at 9 a.m. and then holding a private business and education roundtable event on the campus of N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro at 10 a.m.

The recent toxic spills into North Carolina rivers will get attention from lawmakers when the Environmental Review Commission meets at10 a.m. in room 643 of the legislative office building. A House committee on the state pension system meets at the same time in room 1027 of the legislative building. And at 1 p.m. a House committee on drones meets in room 544 of the legislative building.

A Wake County jury will begin to weigh a civil complaint against U.S. Senate candidate Greg Brannon on Monday. Testimony concluded Friday with the Republican managing to avoid the witness stand. ( Read more here.) And in the same courthouse, the legal challenge to the private school voucher law gets a hearing Monday. ( Read more here.)

MORE ON McCRORY’S NATIONAL INTERVIEWS -- From Politico: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory joked Sunday that the harsh winter weather hitting his state is “not as tough as the first episode of ‘House of Cards,’ but it’s been tough on all of us.” Read more here.

RELATED: Gov. McCrory says N.C. learned lessons from winter storm. Read more here.

TOP READS FROM THE WEEKEND ---

1. WHISTLEBLOWER FIRED: Joe Vincoli has made a name for himself as a whistle-blower, saving the state millions of dollars by pointing out examples of wasteful spending and lax oversight. Two years ago, a law strengthening whistle-blower protections was enacted because of his efforts.

But now Vincoli might have whistled himself out of a job. Vincoli is fighting to keep his position with the state Department of Public Safety, petitioning an administrative law judge to put him back on the state’s payroll. He contends the agency fired him in December as retaliation for his persistent efforts to report theft, embezzlement or misuse of state property. Read more here.

2. McCRORY ON HOT SEAT IN DUKE ENERGY SPILL: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory denied Friday he had any talks with Duke Energy executives or lobbyists about his administration’s scuttled deal to settle environmental violations at two of the $50 billion company’s coal ash dumps for $99,000.

“I have had no conversations with Duke Energy about the lawsuits or about the federal action,” McCrory said.

Lawyers for the state environmental agency pulled the deal from consideration after last week’s massive coal ash spill into the Dan River. Environmentalists opposed the proposed agreement, which they described as a sweetheart deal that would have done nothing to require the nation’s largest electricity provider to clean up its toxic dumps. Read more from AP here.

RELATED -- FOLLOW THE MONEY: Duke Energy gave far more money to Republicans than to Democrats in 2013 as environmental groups threatened lawsuits over its coal ash, a campaign watchdog group said Friday.

Democracy North Carolina said three contributions were made shortly after environmental groups threatened to sue Duke. For the year, it said, Duke’s corporate and political-action committee contributions to Republican politicians and groups totaled $437,000 and Democratic giving $227,000. Read more here.

3. REPUBLICANS TRY TO TAKE UP THE DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION MANTLE: From AP’s Gary Robertson: With the usual ebbs and flows, North Carolina government leaders have made public education their pre-eminent issue for more than a century.

Democrats in charge nearly all of that time wore the pro-education mantle, led by political giants such as Govs. Terry Sanford and the four-term Jim Hunt. ... Now Republicans leading the General Assembly and living in the Executive Mansion simultaneously for the first time in more than 140 years have shaken up the education establishment and offered their own formula for success. They say Democrats lost direction and threw money at problems rather than embracing innovation and competition.

... But the transition has been rough on Republicans as they’ve faced lawsuits over their laws for taxpayer-funded private-school scholarships and the end of job-protecting teacher tenure rules. There have been angry rallies and criticisms from Democrats and their allies. Meanwhile, no pay raise for teachers this year sent the average salary further toward the bottom of the states. Read more here.

4. NORTH CAROLINA: A HOUSE DIVIDED: From Rob Christensen -- While it is true that North Carolina, like the rest of the South, has been dominated by the Democratic Party for much of its history, the Republicans – and what’s more important, conservatives – have a much richer history in the Tar Heel state than some may realize.

There was not some sudden shift in the state’s philosophy, when North Carolina voters changed the state’s political leadership from Democratic to Republican in 2010 and 2012. . ...(W)hat many may not realize is that even during the many decades of one-party Democratic control, the state was still sharply divided. The divisions were within the Democratic Party, with partisan bloodbaths between liberals and conservatives or between moderates and conservatives. Read more here.

5. IN SPILLS, THE PUBLIC NOT QUICKLY NOTIFIED: When sewage and pollutants contaminate North Carolina’s waters, the public often is the last to be alerted.

While workers in Burlington last month rushed to contain a huge spill of sewage liquids and downstream governments monitored their drinking water, no one reached out to the boaters who paddle the Haw River in the winter.

A week later, Duke Energy waited 26 hours to give public notice of an ongoing spill that filled the Dan River with millions of pounds of coal ash. Ten days after the leak was found, the state warned residents not to touch the sludgy material or eat fish from the river.

Environmentalists, some scientists and public officials downstream of the sites say the public needs to be alerted faster of potential health hazards. Read more here.

MORE #NCPOL ---

COMING TO A KAY HAGAN SPEECH NEAR YOU: The New York Times details the new Democratic 2014 strategy on the health care law: As Democrats approach the 2014 midterm elections, they are grappling with an awkward reality: Their president’s health care law — passed almost entirely by Democrats — remains a political liability in many states, threatening their ability to hold on to seats in the Senate and the House.

As a result, party leaders have decided on an aggressive new strategy to address the widespread unease with the health care law, urging Democratic candidates to talk openly about the law’s problems while also offering their own prescriptions to fix them. Read more here.

EXPERTS DISPUTE ‘MORAL MARCH’ CROWD SIZE: Organizers of the “Moral March on Raleigh” last weekend said more than 80,000 people marched through the city center, protesting legislation passed by the General Assembly last year.

The number matters. ... But it is almost impossible to get a number on which everyone can agree. Organizers of events have every incentive to inflate the numbers, and there’s often not anyone else to provide an independent estimate. Raleigh police stopped doing crowd estimates more than a decade ago, said spokesman Jim Sughrue.

Two experts contacted by the News & Observer to provide an independent crowd estimate put it anywhere between 14,000 and 20,000. Read more here.

RELATED: Why the N&O put the march where it appeared in the paper. Read more here.

ROBERT PITTENGER TO FACE TEA PARTY CHALLENGE: A year ago, North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger strode into Washington with a plan to stop the war between the parties. He wanted to instill some “humanity” into a dysfunctional city where Republicans and Democrats sometimes can barely look at each other.

...He has stuck primarily to the mainstream Republican line. He hasn’t drawn much negative attention to himself – except for one hiccup during the shutdown debacle.

Pittenger told tea party groups this summer that he opposed a push to defund the Affordable Care Act, which led to the government shutdown. That exchange went viral on YouTube. The Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC, which has targeted Pittenger, said Wednesday it plans to announce a primary challenger, possibly as soon as this week. Read more here.

ANTHONY FOXX ATTENDS STATE DINNER: It wasn’t your typical pre-City Council meeting buffet for former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx last week. Joined by his wife Samara, Foxx, now the U.S. transportation secretary, attended his first state dinner at the White House, one that honored French President Francois Hollande.

At the dinner, a spokesman told Jim Morrill at the Observer, Foxx chatted up actors Bradley Cooper and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. He talked railroads and transportation – sometimes in French – with Guillaume Pepy, president of the French National Railway Co.

QUICK HEADLINES ---

New York Times Editorial: Regulatory favoritism in North Carolina. Read more here.

Coming next to North Carolina? AFP asking Louisiana lawmakers to pledge not to expand Medicaid. Read more here.

Winston-Salem Journal: N.C. group continues to fight for gay rights. Read more here.

State food stamp scramble satisfies feds. Read more here.

Government’s red wolf program concerns some landowners. Read more here.

Gov. McCrory talks North Carolina political history with C-SPAN. Read more here.

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