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    HURRICANE FLORENCE 


Death Toll

Young and old among Florence’s victims. Here are the 36 NC deaths blamed on the storm.
N&O // Brian Murphy // September 25, 2018

Summary: Hurricane Florence and its aftermath claimed 36 lives in North Carolina through Monday night, according to a state count. As flood waters receded, roads opened, power was restored and the state began its long recovery over the weekend, the toll climbed. “Florence is gone but the storm’s devastation is still with us,” Gov. Roy Cooper said during a storm update Monday. Nine people died in South Carolina and two in Virginia for a total of 47 in those three states. Among the storm’s latest victims: An 82-year-old man in Beaufort County who died by suicide after his house was condemned because of flooding, a 51-year-old woman whose body was found in a vehicle under water in Robeson County and a 67-year-old man who fell and fractured his neck while cleaning up debris from the storm in Craven County, according to NC Emergency Management.

Rescue/Recovery

Pender County conducts more than half of NC rescue missions, saves more than 3,700 people from floodwaters
WECT // Staff // September 23, 2018

Summary: Pender County Emergency Management saved more than 3,700 people from Florence's floodwaters using six rescue helicopters. The agency posted to Facebook Sunday morning that it conducted more than half of North Carolina's total rescue missions. "Pender EMS conducted 1,870 rescue missions and pulled more than 3,700 people from cars trapped by swift water, people on rooftops, bridges and treetops," the EMS wrote. "Pender County conducted more than half of the state's total rescue missions. Be sure to commend the rescue efforts of Pender County EMS and Fire." Floodwaters in the aftermath of Florence have brought devastation along the Cape Fear and other local rivers. Florence & Midterms

Know your rights post Florence on National Voter Registration Day
Progressive Pulse // Melissa Boughton // September 25, 2018

Summary: Today is National Voter Registration Day, and early voting for the November midterm elections in North Carolina is less than a month away. Voters can make sure they are registered to vote and that their information is current here. Anyone who isn’t registered to vote or who needs to make changes to their registration has until Oct. 12 to do so and can find more information here. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) also recently released information about voter rights post-Hurricane Florence, which devastated much of the eastern part of the state. “In the wake of natural disasters, voters frequently get displaced from their homes,” a news release states. “That does not mean that these voters lose their right to vote and have their political voices heard. Survivors of Hurricane Florence who have been forced from their homes because of the storm and subsequent flooding have several options available to them to vote this November.” The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement is still assessing damage from the hurricane to early voting sites. The State Board and voting rights advocates have been working double-time to get out the vote in the wake of the disaster.

Education Impact

The Latest: 2 public schools in NC uninhabitable after storm
N&O // AP // September 25, 2018
Summary: A North Carolina school superintendent says two of the six schools in his system will have to be demolished because of water damage caused by Hurricane Florence. Jones County School Superintendent Michael Bracy said Jones Middle and Trenton Elementary schools received at least 3 feet (0.9 meters) of water in portions of the respective buildings. Bracy said by the time workers could get into the schools, mold and mildew had already formed. Bracy says the system is building a brand new K-12 school for those students, scheduled to open in August 2019. In the meantime, efforts are underway to relocate them temporarily to other schools that weren't affected by Florence.

NC education officials start fund to aid students, teachers affected by Florence
WRAL // Laural Leslie, Matthew Burns // September 25, 2018

Summary: Florence Aid to Students and Teachers in North Carolina, or FAST NC, is aimed at raising and distributing private donations quickly and with more flexibility than the state has. The money will help clean and reopen schools and restock school supplies and books that were ruined by floodwaters. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson said $30 million in damage to schools has already been reported across eastern North Carolina, and that figure is expected to grow. Many schools that sustained water damage from Florence's heavy rains are now showing signs of mold after being without power for several days, he said. "Even when schools were not hard hit, their surrounding communities were devastated," Johnson said. "Not only do we have families – parents and students – who have lost everything, we also had teachers in those communities who lost everything, and they have nowhere to go right now."

Environmental Impact

Cape Lookout closed indefinitely. Hurricane Florence trash has filled the harbor.
N&O // Mark Price // September 25, 2018

Summary: Cape Lookout National Seashore off the coast of North Carolina remains closed more than a week after Hurricane Florence caused widespread damage in the park, including filling a harbor with trash and sand. All visitor sites and services remain closed indefinitely until repairs can be made, said the park service website. “The harbor at Long Point was filled in by Hurricane Florence,” said the National Park Service in a series of Facebook posts. “Ferries will not be able to get in to the dock until repairs are made. At this time there is no date for a possible resumption of ferry operations.”

Florence: Nasty Water, Mounting Damage
Coastal Review // Staff // September 25, 2018

Summary: As floodwaters from Hurricane Florence continue to rise in some areas, clean water advocates, state regulators and national attention are turning to the nasty mix of pollutants heading downriver and downstream here. As reported Friday, floodwaters from the Cape Fear River breached Duke Energy’s L.V. Sutton facility in Wilmington. Water flowed into Sutton Lake on the north side and back into the river on the south side. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality said a thorough investigation of events would soon follow and that Duke Energy would be held responsible for any environmental damage. An EPA coordinator and NCDEQ staff met with Duke Energy and personnel at the Sutton facility Monday to survey conditions, according to a tweet late Monday by EPA Southeast.

Coal ash flowing like pudding in Neuse River near Duke’s Goldsboro power plant
NC Policy Watch // Lisa Sorg // September 25, 2018
Summary: Matthew Starr had paddled only a half mile of a stretch of Neuse River near Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee power plant in Goldsboro when he saw initial signs that something had gone very wrong. “There was exposed coal ash on trees, floating in the river, on the road,” said Starr, the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper. “There was coal ash lying on the ground. We scooped it up out of the water.” Flooding from Hurricane Florence had drowned two inactive coal ash basins in five feet of water. The active basins, according to state regulators, were structurally sound, but the Half Mile Branch Creek, according to images published by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), was flowing through the inactive basin complex, which is covered in trees and other vegetation. Cenospheres, hollow balls of silica and aluminum that are coal ash byproducts, were floating on the water. But cenospheres are not entirely innocuous; they often contain arsenic and lead, just like the coal they came from.

42K gallons of wastewater spilled into New River
JD News // Staff // September 25, 2018

Summary: An estimated 83,776 gallons of wastewater was spilled in a low-lying area on Camp Lejeune. A press release from base stated the spill was discovered around 3:30 p.m. Monday near the intersection of Julian C. Smith and L streets, a low-lying area that acted as a natural basin. From there, an estimated 41,888 gallons overflowed through a storm ditch and into the New River. “The spill was attributed to a loss of power to the lift station during the storm and an increased amount of rain fall causing the low lying area to overflow,” according to the release. The Public Works Division has since removed all remaining wastewater from the low-lying area and disinfected the surrounding area, according to the release. Water samples have been taken, both by Camp Lejeune and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the results of which are pending, according to the release. Base officials said the spill has no impact on the residential water.

Cape Fear River in North Carolina is filled with TOXIC gray muck from flooded coal ash dump following Hurricane Florence
Daily Mail // Leah Simpson, AP // September 23, 2018

Summary: Toxic gray muck containing arsenic and other heavy metals transformed the look of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina on Saturday, after Hurricane Florence flooding overflowed into an old coal ash dump. As flooding predictions near the L.V. Sutton Power Station say water levels will rise throughout the weekend, a Duke Energy spokeswoman said she doesn't believe the breach of the dam that turned the water near the Wilmington power plant gray is a threat. Paige Sheehan wasn't concerned about water levels but she admitted to Associated Press she can't rule out that the contaminated water containing 'coal combustion byproducts' is escaping via Sutton Lake.

Dead hogs being fished from swamps, workers rescued by kayak: We knew how many farms had flooded. Now we know where they are.
Progressive Pulse // Lisa Sorg // September 24, 2018

Summary: Days after Hurricane Florence devastated eastern North Carolina, fourth-generation hog farmer Brandon Howard had to figure out how to remove “large numbers” of dead pigs from a nearby swamp. Two of the hog houses at Howard’s 3,200-head farm in Onslow County had been engulfed by floodwaters; two others were half full. Howard “was working with the [Department of Agriculture] to get the hogs out of the swamp by air,” read notes from the state Department of Environmental Quality. “He has folks out trying to capture hogs that are roaming.” At least 5,500 hogs died during Hurricane Florence. More than 100 swine waste lagoons have sustained damage, flooded, breached or nearly breached since the historic storm hit on Sept. 14, and now it’s known where some of them are. A public but little-known DEQ map and database lists every hurricane-related incident –wastewater treatment overflows, coal ash spills, petroleum and other hazardous material releases reported and/or investigated by the agency and its regional offices. 

    GENERAL ASSEMBLY NEWS 

Education

Editorial: Teachers deserve respect, not spin
WRAL // CBC Opinion // September 25, 2018

Summary: North Carolina’s legislative leaders have come up with lots of ways to say they’re paying public school teachers well. With the help of Republican-oriented “think tanks” they point to questionable claims of accelerated pay raises, cost-of-living differentials and use local supplements – particularly from a handful of the state’s urban school districts – to paint a rosier pay picture. First, average teacher pay – the average salary for all North Carolina’s public school teachers – is NOT what the average teacher makes. Nearly two-thirds of the state’s public classroom teachers were paid LESS than the average. Also, average teacher pay includes local supplements, money that comes from local taxpayers in specific districts, that vary widely depending on the school district. Several districts don’t provide any supplements. Yet, the expectations of a second-grade teacher in Bertie County (which doesn’t provide a local supplement) are no different than the expectations of a second-grade teacher in Wake County, which provides one of the most generous supplements. In fact, North Carolina courts have ruled the state’s Constitution mandates “a sound basic education” for every child.

Racial Justice 

The Black Communities That Have Fought for Their Right to Exist in the Carolinas
CityLab // Brentin Mock // September 21, 2018

Summary: There has been much-deserved panic about the thousands of pigs and open-air waste lagoons in the path of Hurricane Florence, mostly in North Carolina. While the state is still waiting for floodwaters to recede so that farmers can assess the damage, the North Carolina Pork Council has reported that one of the waste lagoons that breached since Florence made landfall is in Duplin County.Duplin County is the same county that happens to be at the center of litigation involving hundreds of African-American residents and the hundreds more hog farms located in their vicinity. Civil rights attorneys sued Smithfield Farms, and its hog-production division Murphy-Brown, in 2015 for their failure to properly regulate and control the toxic odorous emissions coming from those farms and lagoons, which Smithfield owns. A recent study found that communities in southeastern North Carolina, where Duplin County is located and where animal feeding operations are concentrated, “had higher ... infant mortality, mortality due to anemia, kidney disease, tuberculosis, septicemia” along with the lowest life expectancy levels in the state.

This picture signaled an end to segregation. Why has so little changed?
The Guardian // Michael Graff // September 17, 2018

Summary: One afternoon in early June, graduation week in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dorothy Counts-Scoggins answers the landline phone and waits for an update on the white people who want to flee the local school system she was the first to integrate. “What happened?” she asks me, her voice low, as if she already knows the answer. Counts-Scoggins is 76 and lives in the west Charlotte neighborhood where she grew up. The black and white photo that reshaped schools in the south adorns her wall. In the frame, it is 1957. She’s 15 and walking toward a previously all-white high school, her chin up and shoulders back, flanked by hunched-over white kids following her menacingly, their spittle soaked into the fabric of her checkered dress.In 1957, it was Counts-Scoggins, striding toward Harding High School in a city that viewed itself as progressive, surrounded by shouts of “Go home, nigger”. In 1964, it was Darius Swann, a black six-year-old denied admission to the integrated Seversville elementary – inciting the lawsuit that led to a supreme court ruling in favor of bussing as a means to desegregate. In the late 1990s, it was William Capacchione, a white parent, arguing that his daughter was shut out of a magnet program because she wasn’t black, resulting in a federal district judge ordering CMS to stop using race in student assignments. And in 2018, it’s four dove-white suburbs asking for more “choice”.A bill before the state legislature, HB 514, would allow these towns, each more than 77% white, to develop their own charter schools. If it becomes law, town residents would have priority admission, and kids from the rest of the county would be able to enroll only if seats remain.

How Republican-led Voter Suppression is Undermining Democracy in America
Toward Freedom // John Lasker // September 20, 2018

Summary: Forty-six states have challenger laws which allow private citizens to challenge another private citizen’s right to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. In North Carolina the law was heavily utilized to challenge thousands of African American voters leading up to the 2016 presidential election. The Center for Media and Democracy, a nationally-renowned investigative journalism and advocacy group, found that the sudden resurgence of the challenger law in North Carolina was a far right-wing plan bankrolled by GOP mega-donor Art Pope, a founding board member of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, one of the most influential conservative organizations in the country. Pope is the multimillionaire CEO of Variety Wholesalers, a discount store. In 2005, he founded the non-profit Civitas Action, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help elect Republicans to the statehouse and giving the GOP a majority in North Carolina for the first time in over a century. Just before the 2016 presidential election, members of Civitas sent out a mass mailing, some reading “Do Not Forward.” (They claimed to be non-partisan and said they were providing a service to local county board of elections and North Carolina State Board of Elections.) If the mail was returned undeliverable, conservative activists argued the voter no longer lived in the county and thus needed to be purged. As a result, 6,700 voters, mostly African American, were removed. Just days before the 2016 presidential election, a federal judge reversed the removals, calling them “insane.” Though the voters were allowed to vote, the purging likely dissuaded thousands from casting their ballots. “We’ve really seen a rise in this narrative of voter fraud coinciding with the rise of people on the county level [making challenges],” says Jen Jones, the Director of Communications for Democracy North Carolina, an advocacy group focusing on increasing voter participation and limiting the role of big money in politics.

Ethics

NC House Speaker Tim Moore’s legal contract with start-up raises questions
N&O // Dan Kane // September 24, 2018

Summary: A short time into Anne Whitaker’s tenure as chief executive officer of KNOW Bio, a Triangle-based pharmaceutical start-up, she learned of a legal services contract given to an attorney she had never heard of. The company already had lawyers handling internal and external matters and she didn’t understand why KNOW Bio needed yet another lawyer — one whose services she felt were of questionable value for a company that in early 2017 was barely a year old. The lawyer was Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican and speaker of the N.C. House — one of the state’s three most powerful officials. When she learned the details of his contract and his work, which struck her as federal lobbying, she said she terminated it with the support of company board members. “He was working on really, something about how [limited liability corporations] were treated, the tax treatment of LLCs, as well as trying to drive awareness around antibiotic resistance with, I guess with, the politicians, and trying to get incentives for antibiotics to be developed,” Whitaker said. “At least that’s what I understand his purpose was, but we were a small company, and to me it wasn’t a priority.”

THE POWER TO PROFIT
Politics NC // Thomas Mills // September 25, 2018

Summary: For House Speaker Tim Moore, politics has been a lucrative business. Since he got elected to the legislature, his financial outlook has improved dramatically. He went from small-time lawyer to privileged businessman—not that there’s anything wrong with that. Profiting off power is a time-honored tradition in politics. And Moore seems to just luck into profitable ventures. Earlier this year, we learned that Moore was part of a group that bought an environmentally troubled abandoned chicken plant for $85,000 and sold it three years later for $550,000 after the Department of Environmental Quality waived fines for underground fuel tanks. Some people would call that a sweetheart deal. I doubt he would have gotten it if he hadn’t been in the legislature. Moore also landed the contract as Cleveland County attorney. It pays $25,000 a year plus $250 an hour. Good work if you can get it. I’m sure there’s never any conflicts between the county and the state—at least not when you’re on the payroll of both.

Coastal Planning

Potential Insurance Bill From Hurricane Florence Could Take Toll on Wallets Far From North Carolina’s Coast
Pro Publica // Abraham Lustgarten, Talia Buford // September 14, 2018

Summary: For years, North Carolina has bet against a storm like Hurricane Florence. Even as nationally known insurance companies pulled out of the state’s coastal communities, development boomed along the shore, despite the threat from a megastorm like Harvey or Maria. In the face of warnings that climate change was making such storms more common, the state-created “insurer of last resort” has written policies for thousands of coastal properties worth tens of billions of dollars. With Hurricane Florence headed straight for North Carolina, the state faces not only a natural disaster but a financial reckoning.

Environment

Relaxed Environmental Regulations Heighten Risk During Natural Disasters
DesmogBlog // Guest // September 21, 2018
Summary: Heavy rains following Hurricane Florence have raised concerns over the release of toxic materials. Ash from coal-fired power plants stored at a landfill has spilled out and the state of North Carolina has said dozens of sites have released hog waste or are at risk of doing so. These types of events not only highlight the potential of harm to humans and the environment due to this type of uncontrolled pollution, but also the linkage between environmental regulations and the risks communities face when natural disasters occur. The decisions communities make when managing a range of hazards, including industrial waste siting, are a key factor in a community’s vulnerability during a disaster — a dynamic we’ve seen play out in many ways in our work in disaster policy and management. Such choices also help explain why disaster damage is so costly and disaster recovery so complex.

As sea levels rise, the Carolinas continue to build along the shore
Christian Science Monitor // Rebecca Beitsch // September 19, 2018

Summary:  As hurricane  Florence rages on the Carolina coast, scientists say they’ve been trying to warn state leaders for years that climate change could have devastating effects on the fragile coastline. With the hurricane expected to wreak havoc, officials ordered the evacuation of more than a million people. Despite their vulnerability to both climate change and hurricanes, North and South Carolina have put in place a series of policies and laws that favor coastal developers and property owners. North Carolina made headlines in 2012 for passing a bill instructing its Coastal Resources Commission to redo a 2010 report that predicted a 39-inch sea level rise by the year 2100. That report was targeted by the Legislature and NC-20, an economic development group for North Carolina’s 20 coastal counties that sought “responsible science concerning sea level rise.”

Labor Relations

Toledo-based union relieved after judge blocks North Carolina's Farm Act
The Blade // Javonite Anderson // September 20, 2018

Summary: A federal judge in North Carolina on Thursday temporarily stopped that state from implementing a labor-related law after the Toledo-based agricultural union, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, challenged the measure in court. The 2017 Farm Act, signed by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper last July, includes an amendment that prevents agricultural producers from directly transferring funds to labor unions to pay membership fees or dues. That measure would cripple FLOC, which has about 4,800 dues-paying members in North Carolina, FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez said. The bill will force FLOC, he said, to travel to more than 500 farms across the state to try and collect dues.
 

  GOV. COOPER NEWS  
 
Florence shows why people trust local news
N&O // Melanie Sill // September 25, 2018

Summary: Amid early Florence relief efforts, Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted, “Local news is more vital than ever,” and he was right: Our state benefited from a tremendous local news effort over the past two weeks. The question now becomes: What news and information do we need moving forward and how can we support the service we’ll depend on? News people lived through Florence with their neighbors and did their jobs tirelessly, as did emergency responders, government agencies, aid organizations and others who serve the public. These same journalists now are immersed in helping North Carolinians find help or ways to help, cataloging destruction and loss and covering communities trying to pick life back up.

Florence legislative session set for Oct. 2
WRAL // Travis Fain // September 24, 2018
Summary: The General Assembly will be called back into session Oct. 2, Gov. Roy Cooper's office said Monday. That's a week earlier than Cooper initially proposed for a session on disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Florence and four days later than legislative leaders wanted to return. The plan, as laid out in a letter from House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, will be to address policy issues, then adjourn until Oct. 9 to give the Cooper administration time to put together a funding request for storm recovery.

North Carolina, a ‘Slow Spender’ State, Struggles to Hand Out Storm Aid
NY Times // Glenn Thrush // September 24, 2018

Summary: Many of the areas most prone to repeated hurricanes, especially Louisiana, Texas, Puerto Rico, and now North Carolina, have all experienced similar problems as they adjust to a new normal in which disaster agencies are permanently mobilized — and federal disaster money is now one of the single biggest sources of government money used to help rehabilitate or preserve low-income housing. “We are really good at disaster recovery programs, hazard mitigation, helping individual people who are in trouble, but not at this kind of thing,” said the state’s emergency management director, Michael A. Sprayberry, who contends that the lessons learned under Matthew will help the state more efficiently distribute post-Florence disaster funding. “We have had to hire and stand up a completely new staff — roughly 50, 60 new people — so this is a whole new ballgame.”Even before Florence struck, Mr. Sprayberry, aware that his staff members were still struggling with Matthew, met with HUD officials in Washington to ask for more technical assistance, going so far as to request that a department official embed with his staff full-time. The request was rejected. On Monday, Governor Cooper called Housing Secretary Ben Carson requesting more flexibility in allocating the new amount of federal cash that is expected to exceed the Matthew funding, state officials said. In the midst of a ferocious legislative election year, the issue has become a flash point. The state’s entire Republican congressional and Senate delegations wrote to Mr. Cooper, a Democrat, in May to complain that, “North Carolina has the potential to lose millions of dollars in disaster relief aid if it continues to allocate funds at this rate.”Mr. Cooper’s team fired back, claiming that the process was slowed by a reduction in state staff members who handled housing department grants, part of an effort to roll back the state’s commitment to low-income housing under Mr. Cooper’s predecessor, Patrick L. McCrory. And the Republican state legislature’s decision to move disaster rebuilding programs from the Commerce Department to the emergency management agency also slowed things down, they said.
 
 OTHER 

Midterms

Amendments 

Report: State, individuals will have to pony up big bucks if voter ID amendment passes
Progressive Pulse // Rob Schofield // September 25, 2018
Summary: A new report from the good people at the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center reveals another reason to be very concerned about the proposed constitutional amendment on the fall ballot that would require a photo ID to vote: cost. The report (“The Cost of Creating Barriers to Vote: A preliminary analysis of the Constitutional amendment requiring photo identification at the polls”) finds that the new requirement would likely cost state and local government a minimum of around $12 million. That’s enough money to fund any number of important public programs, including modernizing state voting systems to make them less susceptible to hackers. The report also finds high costs for the more than 218,000 individuals in North Carolina who are currently estimated to not have acceptable identification — between $18.9 million and $25.2 million. These costs will be disproportionately borne by people of color, older people and people of low income. The costs will be especially burdensome for individuals in rural communities who already face significant economic barriers.

Our Opinion: Are you in the 'no' about proposed amendments?
Greensboro N&R // Editorial Board // September 24, 2018

Summary: How will the General Assembly implement any laws you approve? There is no answer for that. Let’s be clear about one overriding issue: Taking up these items as constitutional amendments is bad governing. They don’t meet the arduous standards for being part of the document that shapes our government. A constitution doesn’t include laws but structures and principles. These are ideas that should be debated as legislation, not foisted on you as doctrine you may not embrace and maybe haven’t even read. But if you have, if you are in the know, you should vote no.

What voters need to know about the proposed constitutional amendments
NC Policy Watch // Melissa Price, Tomas Lopez, Karen Anderson // September 24, 2018

Summary: Kinston native Chris Suggs is fighting back against the six proposed constitutional amendments on the North Carolina ballot this fall because he’s no stranger to turning bad deals into better outcomes. In 2014, Chris met the poverty and violent crime hurting his hometown with opportunities for volunteerism. At age 14, he formed Kinston Teens — a nonprofit empowering young people through civic engagement and service. Chris is now a UNC-Chapel Hill sophomore, but his Kinston Teens are still making a difference, even leading ongoing efforts to assist Hurricane Florence survivors in the region.  It is that same spirit of community activism that has made Chris a vocal opponent of these constitutional amendments, which include a proposal to revive attacks on young voters. From a Fayetteville pulpit this summer, Chris spoke of how amendments would impact students’ access to working elections, impartial courts, and the ballot itself, and how “voting against” them is an opportunity for the people to finally have their say in an important moment for our democracy. Reflecting on Esther’s Biblical story of purpose, Chris told congregants and activists, “To know that college students have to fight [these amendments] is disheartening, but like Esther, I know we have been put here ‘for such a time as this.’”

Coal Ash

Trump’s EPA Made It Easier for Coal Plants to Pollute Waterways
Scientific American // Benjamin Storrow // September 24, 2018

Summary: Flooding from Hurricane Florence, which led to a coal ash spill at a plant in North Carolina, illustrates the risk poised by the rollbacks. The wastewater standard would have limited the danger of such events in the future because it required power companies to adopt new ways for disposing their waste. "From our perspective, there was a huge amount of environmental gain for a little amount of economic pain," said Abel Russ, an attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project, referring to the Obama-era standards. "This was a huge opportunity to make a dent in the largest source of toxic industrial water pollution." Coal interests concede that the industry's challenges extend beyond environmental regulation. Yet they say that Trump's rollback provided tangible relief. It helps rebalance a regulatory scale that was left badly slanted after eight years of the Obama administration, they argue. The rules, they claim, were aimed at closing coal plants rather than protecting the environment. And although they acknowledge that the rollbacks have not altered the downward trajectory of America's coal industry, they say the moves deliver a critical boost at a time when wholesale electricity markets are not appropriately valuing the reliable power provided by coal plants.


Federal News  

Special Counsel Investigation 

Thom Tillis and Lindsey Graham tried to protect Robert Mueller. They need to try again
N&O // Observer Editorial Board // September 24, 2018

Summary: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein thought he was fired Monday. As it turns out: Not yet. It could happen Thursday, when he and president Donald Trump meet at the White House. It could be soon after the midterm elections, if reports are true about the president cleaning house at the Justice Department. But the deputy attorney general is, by all appearances, a lame duck. Republicans need to be ready now for what may follow when his pink slip comes. Rosenstein is the top Justice Department official overseeing the Robert Mueller investigation, and his potential departure prompts some obvious questions about what the president might do next with the special counsel. After all, Trump has repeatedly scorned the special counsel and once tried to orchestrate his firing before backing down. That’s why, last August, Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina co-sponsored legislation that would make firing a special counsel subject to review by a three-judge panel. Tillis, in interviews then, did not shy away from indicating that his bill was directed at President Donald Trump. Tillis has since wavered. By January of this year, his office said that while he still supported that bill, the matter was no longer urgent because the president said he didn’t plan to fire Mueller. A few months later, however, the senator’s concern had apparently resurfaced. Tillis, along with fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, introduced the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which would protect Mueller from an increasingly frustrated Trump. “This bill becoming law would remove that narrative from the conversation,” Tillis said then.

Deputy A.G. Rosenstein 

House conservatives threaten Rosenstein impeachment vote
Politico // Kyle Cheney, Rachel Bade // September 25, 2018

Summary: President Donald Trump's top allies in Congress say they'll force a vote on impeaching Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he refuses to testify this week about reports that he sought to secretly record the president after FBI Director James Comey's firing last year. "I do not believe doing nothing is okay when the guy who runs DOJ makes comments about taping the commander-in-chief," Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said in an interview. "No matter what the context, it requires further investigation. The Judiciary Committee has an obligation to investigate." Trump's top conservative allies are ratcheting up pressure on House leaders to force a hearing. They've been privately pressing Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to arrange a public session with Rosenstein as quickly as possible. Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have reached out to Goodlatte repeatedly to attempt to schedule a hearing.

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