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Friday, May 6, 2016

The Morning Roundup: Bathroom Segregation Now, Bathroom Segregation Forever!

Posted By on Fri, May 6, 2016 at 8:26 AM

Greetings and salutations, fellow Friday enthusiasts! Let’s jump right in.  1. Bathroom segregation now, bathroom segregation forever.  So House Speaker Tim Moore, who has a long history of hating on the gays, has decided that no, North Carolina will not answer the Department of Justice on HB 2 by the Monday deadline.  The department sent state leaders a letter Wednesday saying that the law violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 – a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding. Those laws ban employment discrimination and discrimination in education based on...

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

N.C.'s fracking capitol approves drilling ban

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 2:10 PM

This was expected, but, somehow, it still seems stunning. On Monday night, county commissioners in Lee County— likely North Carolina's prime hotbed for natural gas drilling, according to geologists—approved a sweeping, two-year moratorium on fracking within the county. The vote, which was backed by five of seven county commissioners, comes just a handful of years after residents in the economically troubled industrial county seemed overwhelmingly in support of drilling.  What a difference a few years and a tidal wave of bad publicity can make. Environmental groups, predictably, hailed the news Monday.  The two-year ban may someday prompt a lawsuit....

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Legal case begins against coal ash dumps in Chatham, Lee counties

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 10:38 AM

Two days after Thanksgiving, with plans for coal-ash dumping underway in abandoned brick mines in rural Chatham and Lee counties, community advocates made their last plea for a little holiday charity from Duke Energy. “The solution to the coal ash problem is not spreading the contamination to other sites,” wrote Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League executive director Louis Zeller in a “cease-and-desist” letter to Duke CEO Lynn Good. “Duke Energy has already polluted far too many North Carolina communities.” Cue the crickets. Now, without voluntary action from Duke and its contractors, environmentalists will have to pin their hopes on...

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Another North Carolina county moves to pass fracking moratorium

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 at 1:26 PM

Chatham and Lee counties may soon have company in their attempts to take advantage of a loophole in the state's fracking law. With Chatham approving a temporary moratorium on drilling last month and Lee County considering a similar ban on Monday, leaders in rural Stokes County near the N.C.-Virginia border may do the same.  Per the Winston-Salem Journal, county commissioners in Stokes deliberated Monday about passing a three-year drilling moratorium. As the Indy reported last week, state law forbids outright bans on drilling, but says nothing of temporary moratoriums.  Stokes commissioners set a public hearing for Sept. 28 to consider...

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Chatham County approves two-year moratorium on fracking

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2015 at 1:15 PM

Creative Commons License As expected, Chatham County commissioners approved a two-year moratorium on natural gas drilling, better known as fracking, last night. The two-year moratorium would seem to flout a 2012 state law forbidding local government bans on drilling, but county leaders said Tuesday that the state law does not go so far as to prevent temporary moratoriums. The new ordinance, which you can read here, argues that drilling is a threat to the "health safety and welfare of residents, neighborhoods, environment and natural features." Fracking supporters say the drilling will bring jobs and commerce. But environmental groups and many...

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Environmental groups challenge permits for coal ash dumps

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2015 at 10:59 AM

Creative Commons LicenseContending that the N.C. DENR acted "arbitrarily and capriciously," three environmental nonprofits have taken the first step in challenging recently granted coal ash dumping permits for dual projects in Chatham and Lee counties. The groups—the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump (CCACAD) and EnvironmentaLEE—filed a petition for a contested case hearing with the state's Office of Administrative Hearings Monday. The office hears legal cases against state agencies such as DENR. The case comes after DENR issued permits last month that would allow Duke Energy contractors to dump up to 20 million tons...

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Chatham County makes deal with Duke Energy on coal ash

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 12:07 PM

Creative Commons LicenseWater contaminated with coal ash.Chatham County leaders have approved a pending deal with Duke Energy that would force the energy company to compensate the county for dumping its toxic coal ash in an abandoned Moncure brick mine. The deal, which was announced Tuesday, requires Duke to pay $18 million to the county, with the first $6 million payment coming within 10 days after the company dumps its first coal ash at the site. Chatham will use the funds to help monitor the site, county leaders said. The pact also caps the maximum amount dumped in Moncure at 12...

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Judge temporarily halts fracking permitting in North Carolina

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 10:44 AM

Creative Commons LicenseWake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens has ordered North Carolina to cease accepting or processing fracking permits, pending an ongoing legal battle over the constitutionality of the state's appointed Mining and Energy Commission (MEC). The Southern Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit that specializes in legal work on environmental issues, announced the injunction Wednesday morning. The legal move effectively reinstated North Carolina's drilling moratorium, which lawmakers voted to lift last year. The decision stemmed from a suit brought by the Haw River Assembly in Chatham County and one Lee County landowner. Lawyers for the two parties used Gov....

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Duke Energy pleads guilty for its coal ash spills

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 10:30 AM

"Guilty." Julia Janson, chief legal officer for Duke Energy, had to say that word over and over in a federal courthouse in Greenville Thursday as the giant utility pleaded guilty to nine misdemeanor violations of the federal Clean Water Act. As expected, the company will be required to pay $102 million in fines and restitution for its crimes, part of a plea agreement Duke attorneys reached with federal prosecutors following last year's 39,000-ton coal ash spill in Eden's Dan River. Duke was also facing criminal charges brought by federal prosecutors for illegal ash discharges at their Mount Holly, Asheville,...

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Clean Water for N.C. challenges fracking board's authority

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2015 at 12:03 PM

An environmental nonprofit and three North Carolina residents living in possible fracking destinations are legally challenging the authority of the appointed board that drafted the state's drilling rules. The complaint, which was filed Friday in Wake County Superior Court, comes from Clean Water for N.C., a group that has lobbied to ban fracking in North Carolina for several years. The legal challenge contends that the N.C. General Assembly violated the state constitution in giving the appointed N.C. Mining and Energy Commission the authority to pre-empt local ordinances in crafting fracking regulations. A number of local government bodies passed resolutions or...

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chatham County adopts resolution opposing coal ash dump

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 10:31 AM

It may not matter much in the end, but Chatham County commissioners have unanimously adopted a resolution opposing Duke Energy's plans to dump 3 million tons of potentially toxic coal ash in abandoned brick mines in Moncure and Sanford. Board members called on state lawmakers to act to suspend the energy giant's proposal to dump in Chatham and Lee counties, which could be cleared as soon as early 2015. However, as reported in the Indy last month, this year's Coal Ash Management Act leaves local government authorities virtually no decision-making power in the plan. State law allows the N.C. Department...

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Chatham Park back for rezoning

Posted By on Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 4:17 PM

After much back and forth, Chatham Park is back again. Once again, Pittsboro town leaders will hold a public hearing tonight on the future of Chatham Park, the long-planned development in the rural county that figures to increase the county's population by a factor of twelve in the next three decades.Developers Chatham Park Investors LLC have submitted a rezoning application that would add 46 acres to the development district and make a few amendments to the park's master plan, including offering the town more strength in approving or denying future portions of the development. The rezoning comes after a group...

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Fracking commission finishes its rules

Posted By on Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 2:23 PM

As expected, the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission completed its proposed regulations for the natural gas drilling industry on Friday. Also expected, many environmental activists are not happy with the results, which state lawmakers are expected to finalize next year. Read the recommended rules here. "With all of the challenges of NC’s shallow shale formations, high population density, no regulatory experience and a tiny gas supply, why would we do this?" said Hope Taylor, executive director of Clean Water for N.C. "It’s a waste of public effort and resources to benefit a handful of folks.” After receiving more than 200,000...

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pittsboro makes history

Posted By on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM

The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners made history Monday night. They voted 4-1 to approve Chatham Park, which, at more than 7,000 acres is believed to be the largest development plan in North Carolina history. Bett Wilson Foley was the lone dissenter. Pittsboro Mayor Bill Terry also opposed it, but he does not have a vote. The project, which will create dense residential development clustered around five “village centers” in the largely undeveloped tracts of eastern Chatham County, is expected to increase the small Chatham County town’s population from 4,000 to 60,000 people by 2050. Commissioners approved a master plan Monday...

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Starkweather bows out of state House bid

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 2:54 PM

As it turns out, Jeff Starkweather, a civil rights attorney and former newspaper publisher from Pittsboro, will not be seeking the Democratic party nomination for the vacant District 54 seat in the N.C. House of Representatives. As reported in INDY Week last week, party leaders had indicated Starkweather would be seeking to replace Deb McManus, a first-term lawmaker who stepped down in December after state revenue officials accused her of embezzling more than $47,000 in state tax revenues. But in a statement delivered to party leaders Thursday, Starkweather—who ran against McManus for the party nomination in 2012—said he would instead...

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Indeed, Cardinal Innovations receives federal funding

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2013 at 12:32 PM

As an addendum to today's story, Cardinal Innovations spokeswoman Rachel Porter confirmed after deadline Tuesday that her agency—known in official lingo as a managed care organization—does indeed receive federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That information is key because it confirms the state-funded Cardinal Innovations, formerly known as Piedmont Behavioral Health, is subject to the findings of a federal investigation into whether Cardinal has broken federal law by denying mental health care reimbursements for the treatment of undocumented immigrants in its 15-county service area, which includes Orange and Chatham counties. As reported in today's...

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

North Carolina: No Medicaid dollars for undocumented mental health

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Addendum: It seems that Cardinal Innovation's approach on mental health care for the undocumented community is not unique. N.C. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Henry notified INDY Week after its print deadline Tuesday that undocumented immigrants are only eligible for emergency service coverage under Medicaid rule, echoing the comments of Cardinal leaders in today's story. That indicates managed care organizations such as Cardinal—which is charged with dispensing public dollars for mental health treatment—are following the rule statewide to deny Medicaid reimbursements to providers treating mental illness among undocumented residents. Today's story investigates the impacts of the policy...

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is Aqua North Carolina in bed with 751 developers?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 7:07 PM

The private water company Aqua North Carolina has asked to buy water from Chatham County that could be used for the 751 South project. Chatham County Commissioners voted 4-1 to direct staff to draft a contract that would allow Aqua North Carolina to buy 850,000 gallons per day from the county. Sally Kost was the lone no vote at the Nov. 19 meeting—the Monday before Thanksgiving. Kost told the Indy tonight that she specifically asked an Aqua representative if the the water allocation had anything to do with 751. Kost said the Aqua representative responded, "We've talked with them," adding...

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Groups to hold several public forums on fracking this month

Posted By on Mon, Mar 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM

The N.C. League of Conservation Voters just sent out an announcement about three upcoming meetings and public forums on the topic of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," the process of mining for natural gas. - March 14, 6 p.m., Cary (no address provided) — 'citizen activists' training by Environment NC and Public Interest Network; for info, contact jmiller@publicinterestnetwork.org - March 15, 7 p.m., Raleigh — talk on 'Facts About Fracking'; hosted by Capitol Group Sierra Club at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, 3313 Wade Avenue; click here for more info. - March 23, 7:45 p.m., Buies Creek — “Exploration for...

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hackney won't seek re-election; clears path for Insko

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 10:45 AM

N.C. House Minority Leader Joe Hackney announced his retirement this morning, opting not to wage a re-election campaign against long-time colleague Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange. The two veteran legislators were drawn into the same district, the 56th, by the Republican-produced new maps last year. Hackney will stay in office until his tenure ends in January. Hackney has served 16 terms, 32 years, in the General Assembly representing the 54th district, which includes Orange, Chatham and Moore counties. He was elected Speaker of the House in 2007 following Jim Black’s removal. He severed as president of the National Conference of State...

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Striped bass dying in record numbers at Jordan Lake

Posted By on Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 5:59 PM

Visitors to Jordan Lake are finding the beaches littered with dead fish after the largest die-off of striped bass in the history of the reservoir. More than 5,000 striped bass have died in Jordan Lake since Aug. 1; state wildlife officials counted 1,800 on Aug. 9 alone. The affected area includes the Haw River near Robeson Creek to the main basin of the lake near the U.S. 64 bridge. The fish kill is due to what biologists call a “dissolved oxygen/ temperature squeeze,” according to Brian McRae, Piedmont Region fishery supervisor with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. In the deeper...

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The end of the Chatham County Bookmobile

Posted By on Wed, Aug 3, 2011 at 4:00 AM

After 53 years, the Chatham County Bookmobile is dead. As part of departmental budget cuts, Chatham County commissioners have eliminated funding for the traveling library. For residents of northeast Chatham, the bookmobile was the easiest way to access library books. In 2001, a consultant hired by the county found that northeast Chatham, the fastest-growing part of the county, had the greatest need for a library. However, the county's main library wound up in Pittsboro after Central Carolina Community College donated land for it. With no library in the northeastern part of the county, the bookmobile and its driver/ librarian, Edna...

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kinnaird says Republican-proposed districts “re-segregating North Carolina,” hopes courts will overturn double-bunking with Atwater

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, Person, one of 10 state senators drawn into the same district as another sitting senator under the redistricting proposal Republicans released Tuesday, says she would seek to hold onto her seat, but running against a colleague would be “a very difficult situation.” Photo courtesy of ncleg.netThe 23rd district, which she now represents, was redrawn to include Chatham instead of Person County. That means Kinnaird, serving her eighth two-year term, and Sen. Bob Atwater, D-Chatham, Durham, Lee, in his fourth term, would be forced to square off. “Bob is a very good senator in Chatham County and...

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chatham Commissioners to put resolution about undocumented immigrants on ice

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 4:16 PM

Chatham County Commissioners on Monday plan to rescind a two-year-old resolution that critics say will hurt relations between undocumented immigrants and police. In 2009, the previous board of commissioners, then dominated by Democrats, adopted a resolution acknowledging that undocumented immigrants live in and contribute to their communities: "Chatham County is home to a diverse population — including people of color, documented and undocumented immigrants, citizens and noncitizens — whose contributions to the community are vital to its character and function; and whereas the Board of Commissioners is committed to upholding the civil rights of all persons in Chatham County and...

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

House committee OKs Cary, Apex deal with Chatham to nix involuntary annexation

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 2:30 PM

The deal to prevent Cary and Apex from annexing parts of Chatham County without approval from the Chatham County Board of County Commissioners is sailing through the General Assembly. Commission Chairman Brian Bock announced the agreement Feb. 21 when the commissioners approved the Western Wake Partners’ plan to run 8.1-miles of wastewater treatment pipe underground through the county from the unincorporated Wake County town of New Hill to the Cape Fear River. The partners, composed of Apex, Cary, Morrisville and RTP South, offered to take involuntary annexation off he table and to help push the legislation through this session in...

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