Judge sides with environmentalists in Blounts Creek ruling

Score one for the good guys:

The court ruling can on December 18 when Judge Joshua Willey Jr. overturned the lower court decision and vacated or annulled the twelve million gallons per day mine discharge permit given to the Martine Marietta Materials by the Division of Water Resources.

Judge Willey also ruled that the Sound Rivers and community members had the right to bring a permit challenge to court. The foundation said they worked hard to protect the public’s right to access the courts when the regulatory agencies get it wrong. The court win will protect Blounts Creek.

This is a pretty big victory, folks. On par with successfully shutting down the Titan Cement project, both of which involved limestone mining and the ruination of hundreds (if not thousands) of acres of critical Eastern NC wetlands. Interesting side-note: This case was originally given to Junior Berger, after daddy got him an appointment as an administrative law judge. But Little Phil ran for Court of Appeals back in November 2016, and after daddy got his name pushed to the top of the voting ballot, Junior stole that seat from the highly-qualified Linda Stephens. While that election was a kick in the pants, it very well may have paved the way for the savior of Blounts Creek.

Saturday News: So much for philanthropy

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NEW TAX LAW COULD DEAL DEATH BLOW TO CHARITIES AND NON-PROFITS: Taxpayers claim charitable contributions, along with mortgage interest, property taxes and some other expenses, as deductions from their taxable income if they itemize and the total exceeds the standard deduction. For some people – particularly those with higher incomes – the deduction for charitable gifts has served as an important incentive for giving because it helps reduce taxes owed. Operators of some nonprofits are hopeful Congress may still act. If not, and if charitable giving drops $13 billion nationally as one economist has predicted, North Carolina charities could be expected to take a big hit. So could the people who depend on them. In the state, Heinen said, nonprofits collect and spend roughly $42.5 billion a year and employ about 10 percent of the workforce. In the Triangle, they include Duke University Medical Center and WakeMed hospitals.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article192195079.html

Notable environmental developments during 2017

Topping the list is a new Governor who actually cares about it:

Molly Diggins, executive director of the North Carolina Sierra Club, said the most noticeable change in 2017 was definitely the new governor. Cooper, she said, has been consistently showing leadership on environmental issues, like offshore drilling since taking office. “Second to that is the end of the reign of terror at the Division of Environmental Quality and the return of staff being able to do their jobs and being able to have transparency and accessibility in their work again,” Diggins said. The department had become secretive under Regan’s predecessor, Donald van der Vaart, she said, with professional staff reports subject to rewrite to satisfy policy objectives. Regan has done a better job of transparency and outreach, particularly in rural parts of the state.

Grady McCallie, senior policy analyst for the North Carolina Conservation Network, agreed that the change within DEQ’s top ranks has been important. “We have an administration that cares about good, science-based policy and isn’t trying to smother what their agency scientists are telling them with political overlay,” he said. “Every administration considers politics, but this administration seems to be listening to its civil servants and longtime staff and that’s a huge change.”

And it's a job that has been made monumentally more difficult by the NC GOP's approach to funding. Not satisfied to allow Cooper and/or Regan to manage DEQ how they see fit, Republicans have tailored their budget line items to whittle down the staff in certain areas, while blocking the shifting of resources to fix those shortfalls. It was in the midst of these budget debates that GenX contamination of the Cape Fear was initially reported:

Friday News: Death sentence

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NC PRISON GUARDS FREQUENTLY SKIP INSPECTION ROUNDS LEADING TO UNNECESSARY INJURIES AND DEATHS: Early one winter morning in 2012, officers at an eastern North Carolina prison found inmate Willis Gravley hanging from a bed sheet. He’d been dead for hours. His death raised a question: Why didn’t officers at Bertie Correctional Institution stop Gravley from killing himself – or why, at least, didn’t they find his body earlier? Prison investigators later found that officers in Gravley’s unit had been skipping a crucial part of their job for years: doing the required 30-minute security checks. Instead, officers falsified prison records to indicate they had made their rounds, according to dismissal letters issued to some officers involved. In some of North Carolina’s most dangerous prisons, officers routinely fail to make their rounds, a Charlotte Observer investigation found.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/crime/article192023889.html

The NC GOP's hypocrisy on lottery funds abuse

And of course the irony is lost on them:

State Sen. Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, led lottery opponents as minority leader in 2005. He derided the lottery as “a diversion from other educational problems that Democratic leaders have failed to address,” in the far-right Carolina Journal in August 2005. He also told the Journal he doubted the money would end up where advocates said it would go. ‘The money for education is not going to increase.”

Now they are addicted to its cash. Worse, they are the ones fulfilling their own dire prediction – using the cash to pay for basic education needs. Today much of the money goes to “non-instructional support staff” that provide for on-going school operations while Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and others shower their political patrons, particularly the businesses that control the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, with tax breaks and credits.

This K-3 class size (unfunded) mandate is about to crush schools statewide, and the friction between school boards and county commissions is going to boil over long before Spring Break rolls around. But instead of rolling up their sleeves and preparing to fix it, BergerMoore is too busy crafting propaganda in an effort to shirk the responsibility for this crisis. The next few months are going to get ugly.

Thursday News: Sore loser

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ROY MOORE TRIES TO STOP ALABAMA FROM CERTIFYING DOUG JONES: Republican Roy Moore filed a lawsuit to try to stop Alabama from certifying Democrat Doug Jones as the winner of the U.S. Senate race.The court filing occurred about 14 hours ahead of Thursday's meeting of a state canvassing board to officially declare Jones the winner of the Dec. 12 special election. Jones defeated Moore by about 20,000 votes. Moore's attorney wrote in the complaint filed late Wednesday that he believed there were irregularities during the election and said there should be a fraud investigation and eventually a new election. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told The Associated Press Wednesday evening that he has no intention of delaying the canvassing board meeting. "It is not going to delay certification and Doug Jones will be certified (Thursday) at 1 p.m. and he will be sworn in by Vice President Pence on the third of January," Merrill said.
http://www.newsobserver.com/latest-news/article191907459.html

Income inequality by race in NC stark and staggering

And it creates a formula of generational poverty that's almost impossible to reverse:

Disparities in outcomes did not come out of thin air; they arise from systems and policies, past and present, that create barriers to economic opportunity for people of color. For example, inequity in pay, rooted both in occupational segregation and in people of color being paid less for doing the same work as their white colleagues, is a major reason that communities of color struggle with higher levels of poverty.

African American workers in North Carolina were paid roughly $3.25 per hour less on average than their white colleagues in 2016, a gap that compounds rapidly over time into a monthly pay disparity of almost $600 and a deficit of more than $6,700 annually. The gap is even larger for Hispanic workers in North Carolina, who are paid $5.34 less than whites on average, which compounds into a pay gap of over $11,000 annually.

These numbers sound more like something that would have been compiled back in the 1950's than just last year. And while many folks I know prefer to write stuff like this off as merely one more example that Capitalism is inherently corrupted and needs to be replaced, in many ways, that's just a cop-out. It gives you an excuse to not even try and fix the wage disparity problem, and I have a big problem with that. Here's more:

Wednesday News: "White" Christmas?

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KKK LEFT RECRUITING FLYERS IN HILLANDALE NEIGHBORHOOD ON CHRISTMAS EVE: A Triangle community is expressing concern after discovering KKK fliers in their driveways on Christmas Eve. The notes, meant to recruit members, were placed in plastic bags, along with rocks and a few KKK business cards, and distributed throughout the Hillandale neighborhood in Wake County. "And, for whatever reason, they put peppermints in there," resident Mike Chandler said. Chandler found the bag in his driveway on the morning of Dec. 24. He said his wife drove around the neighborhood and found many other homes with the bags in their driveways. "It's a little bit disconcerting. I've been here 33, going on 34, years, never had anything like this come here before," he said. Among other things, the flier says “white pride doesn’t mean hate,” but many residents said they believe the KKK stands for hate.
http://www.wral.com/triangle-resident-says-neighborhood-received-christmas-eve-message-from-kkk/1721...

Tuesday News: Trumplethinskin

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2017 LEFT WORLD LEADERS STUNNED BY TRUMP'S LACK OF DIPLOMACY: “The change in Washington puts the European Union in a difficult situation; with the new administration seeming to put into question the last 70 years of American foreign policy,” Donald Tusk, president of European Union, in a Jan. 31 letter raising concerns about Trump’s “worrying declarations.” “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over. I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel to an election rally in Munich May 28, alluding to difficulties with Trump after meetings on NATO and the G7 summit. “Make our planet great again,” French President Emmanuel Macron statement June 1 on the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article191239079.html

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