Under the Dome

Environmental group begins new TV ad campaign

A public-interest environmental legal firm that has been involved in contentious issues with state regulators has launched a statewide TV ad campaign that is mostly devoid of politics.

The commercial by the Southern Environmental Law Center touts the natural beauty of North Carolina from the mountains to the coast, with high production values. It ends with the text: “Tell our elected officials not to destroy what is special about North Carolina.”

A report by a media tracking company shows the SELC is spending close to $740,000 on the ads, predominately in the Charlotte and Triangle markets. The ad will run through August.

The SELC, which has been in the news recently for its legal challenge of the state’s coal ash regulation, along with other issues, has put a lot of money into North Carolina politics, singling out individual legislators or calling on viewers to tell their representatives to oppose or support particular bills in TV ads.

Earlier this year, the Center for Public Integrity reported SELC and other environmental organizations have been spending money on the governor’s race. The N.C. Environmental Partnership, which includes SELC and other groups, has spent $1.6 million so far, the center reported.

The partnership and SELC spent more than $600,000 on the 2014 ad campaign, with the Natural Resources Defense Council picking up most of the tab.

In 2014, the conservative Civitas Institute filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections alleging the N.C. Environmental Partnership broke the law with a series of TV ads attacking several legislators for supporting fracking. Civitas claimed the partnership was a shell entity that obscured the true source of funding for the ads.

Civitas President Francis De Luca said Thursday that he has not heard back from the elections board. He said the environmental groups have not used the partnership’s name in TV ads this year.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO