Keep an eye on your health and on your pocketbook — both are on the line in Raleigh this year
Among them are three very real threats to your health and to your pocketbook.Summaries of each appear below. We urge you to keep an eye out for these issues and to demand state-level candidates address them during this year’s Primary and General Election seasons:
Adding loopholes to the Air Toxics Program: Last year, the far right tried and failed to gut a law that limits the amount of toxins in the air we breathe here in NC. These are toxins associated with asthma, cancer, breathing problems and premature births. They also create particular problems for the young, people with lung disorders and the elderly. Encouraged by corporations that do not want to spend money filtering out the toxins, GOP lawmakers are now attempting to push through loopholes in the existing law to make it possible for some companies to be exempt from many of these regulations. Among the companies asking that exemptions be granted: Duke Energy, PCS Phosphate, NuCor, Domtar-Plymouth, Evergreen packaging in canton, NC and more. Lawmakers trying to find a way around present standards have the gall to use the excuse that “we must take local public health into account.” Yes, indeed we must. Which is why North Carolina should be strengthening these regulations, not looking for ways to ignore them. Don’t let them get away with this. It shows appalling disregard for public health.
For more information on air toxics, please see:
The second big issue likely to emerge in this year’s short session is fracking, a relatively new way to drill for natural gas that could, quite literally, can result in tap water that can be lit on fire (see the photo at left). Not a lot is known about the long-term effects of fracking yet. The EPA has issued a draft report that connects fracking operations in Wyoming with groundwater contamination; we know fracking requires an enormous amount of water that could be a devastating side effect for farmers and our communities in increasing times of drought; and we know that the disposal of toxic waste from fracking operations has led to earthquakes in Ohio. And these are just the geographic side effects of fracking. As one Pennsylvania farmer said when interviewed about its impact on his state recently, “Fracking turns neighbor against neighbor. Tell the people of North Carolina it’s not worth it.” Yet, knowing all these things, GOP legislators and now perhaps even Governor Perdue are pushing fracking. Why? There has been an unprecedented lobbying effort mounted by the oil and gas industry and they are promising to help boost the economy with jobs. But consider this: given the low price of natural gas and the very limited amounts of gas believed to be in North Carolina, it is unlikely that oil and gas companies will begin any serious fracking efforts in our state for at least a decade. This begs the question — what’s the rush when this drilling process is so controversial? Why can we not slow down and learn more about the side effects of fracking and watch its impact on other states before we adopt it here in North Carolina? Think about what would happen to your property values if an oil and gas company started fracking down the street from your house. Even worse, imagine fire coming out of your kitchen sink. Then call and insist that lawmakers slow down.
For more information on fracking see:
The final issue on the horizon is nuclear financing. Both Duke Energy and Progress Energy have had little success finding traditional financing for the construction of new nuclear plants. This is because nuclear reactor projects are extremely likely to have massive cost overruns, contruction delays and problems to the point that there is little expectation they can be successfully completed. Which is why the very same banks that enthusiastically jumped into junk bonds and sub-par mortgages find this type of financing too risky. What is Duke Power and Progress Energy’s solution to this problem? They want to transfer the risk and the cost of constructing nuclear plants to their customers. They want to raise rates before any energy whatsoever is created by these plants, and they want to charge customers higher rates for as long as 15 years or more to finance the construction of new nuclear plants. This means companies could end up making profits from the construction of new plants, even if they never produce electricity. Meanwhile, your electric bill could go up as much as $50 a month to finance their construction and, if the plant isn’t completed, you don’t get your money back. We’ve seen it happen in Florida, where a conservative state Republican lawmaker who voted for a nuclear financing law is now leading efforts in the state trying to reverse the policy, saying that consumers shouldn’t have to shoulder financial risk for these companies. Plus, here in North Carolina, we don’t need new nuclear plants. Demand for energy has stagnated and we could reap much better rewards through investment in energy efficiency programs (which reduce both pollution and consumers energy bills). It would be much cheaper for Duke Power and Progress Energy to invest in energy efficiency programs, but they want big power plants to sell more energy make more money. Look for some members of the General Assembly (especially those who get lots of campaign cash from Duke Energy) to try to ram this bill through with little to no debate. Be ready — and be forewarned.
For more information, please see:
There are many issues at play in Raleigh this year and it is often difficult to keep track of them all. But for most North Carolinians, these three issues have the potential to directly impact their health and their pocketbooks. We will continue to follow events and alert you when action is needed. If you’ve not already signed up for our e-mail list, you can do so here and we’ll let you know when the time comes to take a stand. Until then: keep an eye on Raleigh!