Janet Cowell; Sen. Jon Kyl; Chatham County Commissioners | Heroes & Zeros | Indy Week
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Janet Cowell; Sen. Jon Kyl; Chatham County Commissioners 

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This legislative session, environmentalists feared that the N.C. State Energy Office—the agency that researches and implemens alternative fuels and renewable energy—might lose its $7.3 million of annual funding; the federal money supporting the office ran out. But few thought that would come at the hand of Wake County's Democratic state senator, Janet Cowell, whom environmentalists consider an ally. Last week, the Charlotte Observer reported that Cowell is one of the driving forces behind a move to dissolve the SEO and absorb its functions into other agencies. The office would be eliminated and six of the 16 positions cut. The change would save the state a whopping $5. The office has saved the state millions through innovative energy efficiency programs. Cowell argues that the move brings the SEO's functions into the political mainstream, but it comes just as the mainstream public has started to accept the harsh realities of global warming and dependence on foreign oil.

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Texas Sen. Jon Kyl is blocking a vote on the Open Government Act, a bill that would speed up the government's response to public records requests under the Freedom of Information Act. In the ultimate show of irony, the senator tried to use secrecy to do his dirty work. Kyl initially objected to the bipartisan measure under a Senate rule that allows senators to block legislation anonymously. He revealed his identity when the bill's supporters mounted a campaign to name the anonymous blocker. The Open Government Act would strengthen deadlines for the government's responses to information requests.

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Following through on the voters' mandate last fall, the Chatham County Commissioners unanimously agreed to stop most residential development in the county. The ban, which only affects subdivisions of 26 or more units outside of Pittsboro and Siler City, could last as long as a year. Commissioners Carl Thompson, George Lucier, Patrick Barnes, Mike Cross and Tom Vanderbeck voted for the moratorium on June 4.

Correction (June 8, 2007): We incorrectly reported the amount of money that dismantling the N.C. State Energy Office would save the state. Five dollars is not the amount of savings; five is the number of jobs the state would eliminate.

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