News
INDY Week's news blog

Archives | RSS

Friday, January 13, 2012

Judge: Controversial rezoning for 751 South was legal

Posted by on Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Editor's note: This story has been modified since its original post.

A judge in Durham dismissed a lawsuit Friday (PDF) that opponents of the controversial 751 South development near Jordan Lake filed in 2010. The ruling means the judge agreed with the defendants, that the actions Durham County Commissioners took to rezone the case in 2010 were legal. No word yet on whether the plaintiffs will appeal.

Residents near the land to be developed brought the civil lawsuit against Durham County after Durham County Commissioners voted to rezone the land to allow a large, dense development along N.C. 751, which is near the environmentally sensitive lake in southern Durham County.

Numerous property owners had signed a protest petition against the project. By local law, if enough adjacent property owners petition, at least four of five commissioners have to approve the rezoning. And while the petition met all the requirements, a last-minute technicality involving a land-transfer to the N.C. Department of Transportation botched their efforts. The commissioners approved the rezoning by a 3-2 vote, a simple majority. (See a timeline of events)

The Chancellor's Ridge Homeowners Association was one property owner that signed a petition. The HOA sued the county saying its petition shouldn't have been invalidated on the technicality, and thus that commissioners didn't lawfully approve the rezoning. Many residents in the Chancellor's Ridge neighborhood, which is across from the 167 acres to be developed, have said they don't want to live through the estimated 10-year construction of 751 South, which could include 1,300 homes and apartments, plus shopping and office space.

But in his order Friday afternoon, Superior Court Judge Henry Hight sided with Durham County and the project's proponents Southern Durham Development, which intervened in the case and helped defend the county in the lawsuit. Hight granted the parties' request for a dismissal, essentially agreeing that the protest petition was no longer valid when commissioners rezoned the land for 751 South. Hight is a judge from Henderson who has just begun a regularly scheduled rotation presiding in Durham.

"I’m very disappointed," said Steve Bocckino, one of the most vocal opponents to the project. Bocckino was not a plaintiff in the case, but supported their cause. "I do think that Southern Durham Development was guilty at least of trickery in giving land to N.C. DOT and I’m sorry that the judge didn’t recognize that." Plaintiffs in the case couldn't be immediately reached for comment. It is unknown whether the plaintiffs will appeal the judge's findings. However, representatives of the plaintiffs had indicated in recent months that they would appeal if the case was not decided in their favor.

Southern Durham Development President Alex Mitchell issued a statement through his attorney: “We are pleased with Judge Hight’s decision. His order shows Southern Durham Development has consistently acted above board and within the law. We hope this puts to rest any concerns that may have been generated during the course of this lawsuit. We look forward to being part of Durham’s future success.”

  • Pin It
    Opponents of large new community in southern Durham lose their civil case, allowing controversial 751 South project to move forward.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chapel Hill police committee asks for independent investigation

Posted by on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Chapel Hill’s new Community Advising Police Committee (CPAC) voted to request that the Chapel Hill Town Council hire an independent investigator to review the details of the Nov. 13 raid on squatters at the vacant Yates Motor Co. building.

The committee’s actions countered Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil’s recent report endorsing police actions in the raid. CPAC board member Jessica Smith suggested three alternatives:

1) Have the town manager revise the report to address the one-sided nature of the internal review, which solely had police accounts.

2) Create an independent review board, which would be time-consuming and essentially be a full-time job for those participating.

3) Hire an independent investigator whose sole purpose is to factually review the case.

The board voted to present the third option to the town council.

CPAC Chairman Ronald Bogle also addressed community concerns regarding whether CPAC is independent of the town council. While he acknowledged that “there is lack of trust whether this board can address this issue,” Bogle asserted that CPAC is an autonomous committee seeking to satisfy both the council and Chapel Hill citizens, and that one of the more important goals of the committee is to gain the trust of the community.

He added that all CPAC members attended at Monday’s town council meeting, and that he believes the committee and the council have only heard from a small sector of the community. Last night’s meeting had fewer people in attendance than Monday’s council meeting, with 20-30 citizens seated.

Although Bogle stated that CPAC’s role is to determine what happened,board members and Councilwoman Donna Bell believed CPAC needed to clarify its charge to itself and to the council. There was some trepidation when clearly stating CPAC’s role in the process, and questions arose regarding this confusion, including how the board would go about securing any of the proposed options.

Additionally, Chairman Bogle stated that CPAC needs the necessary tools—funding, in other words—to do the job. The committee expressed the need to approach the town council about providing CPAC with the resources to best serve the community. Councilman Jim Warden noted that the city council has a Jan. 23 business meeting during which CPAC can petition for funds to hire an investigator for the Nov. 13 incident.

Before voting on which option to take to the council, the board heard from the public.

Will Raymond, a Chapel Hill resident, said the actions taken by police were a “system failure” and that this is a “constitutional issue.” He expressed his concern that the report issued by the town manager downplayed the severity of the issue.

Similar sentiments wereexpressed by other citizens, along with concerns that the town manager’s report is not factual and is biased. Many speakers suggested the town manager shouldn’t be in charge of hiring the independent investigator if the board decided to approve this route.

Many citizens were pleasantly surprised by CPAC’s thoughtfulness during the meeting. They commended the board for thinking independently of the town council or manager, and expressed appreciation for the board’s deep concern for finding the facts.

The goal of the board is to wrap up the investigation by March 26, but Chairman Bogle stated that while this date is important, the board will take longer if necessary.

Among the concerned citizens at the board meeting last night were about a dozen members of Occupy Chapel Hill as well as Nomadic Occupy, a traveling encampment of the local Occupy group. Some entered the meeting inside; a few remained outside with tents and soup during the rainy weather.

“I think having eyes on the situation that do not have a vested interest in the outcome is important,” said Nomadic occupiers member Lila Little. “Police policing themselves can only go so far.”

The Nomadic Occupiers plan to continue their protests; Little stated that this was the “first of many such things.”

  • Pin It
    Chapel Hill Town Council should hire an independent investigator to review details of raid

Tags: , ,

Chapel Hill police committee asks for independent investigation

Posted by on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Chapel Hill’s new Community Advising Police Committee (CPAC) voted to request that the Chapel Hill Town Council hire an independent investigator to review the details of the Nov. 13 raid on squatters at the vacant Yates Motor Co. building.

The committee’s actions countered Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil’s recent report endorsing police actions in the raid. CPAC board member Jessica Smith suggested three alternatives:

1) Have the town manager revise the report to address the one-sided nature of the internal review, which solely had police accounts.

2) Create an independent review board, which would be time-consuming and essentially be a full-time job for those participating.

3) Hire an independent investigator whose sole purpose is to factually review the case.

The board voted to present the third option to the town council.

CPAC Chairman Ronald Bogle also addressed community concerns regarding whether CPAC is independent of the town council. While he acknowledged that “there is lack of trust whether this board can address this issue,” Bogle asserted that CPAC is an autonomous committee seeking to satisfy both the council and Chapel Hill citizens, and that one of the more important goals of the committee is to gain the trust of the community.

He added that all CPAC members attended at Monday’s town council meeting, and that he believes the committee and the council have only heard from a small sector of the community. Last night’s meeting had fewer people in attendance than Monday’s council meeting, with 20-30 citizens seated.

Although Bogle stated that CPAC’s role is to determine what happened,board members and Councilwoman Donna Bell believed CPAC needed to clarify its charge to itself and to the council. There was some trepidation when clearly stating CPAC’s role in the process, and questions arose regarding this confusion, including how the board would go about securing any of the proposed options.

Additionally, Chairman Bogle stated that CPAC needs the necessary tools—funding, in other words—to do the job. The committee expressed the need to approach the town council about providing CPAC with the resources to best serve the community. Councilman Jim Warden noted that the city council has a Jan. 23 business meeting during which CPAC can petition for funds to hire an investigator for the Nov. 13 incident.

Before voting on which option to take to the council, the board heard from the public.

Will Raymond, a Chapel Hill resident, said the actions taken by police were a “system failure” and that this is a “constitutional issue.” He expressed his concern that the report issued by the town manager downplayed the severity of the issue.

Similar sentiments wereexpressed by other citizens, along with concerns that the town manager’s report is not factual and is biased. Many speakers suggested the town manager shouldn’t be in charge of hiring the independent investigator if the board decided to approve this route.

Many citizens were pleasantly surprised by CPAC’s thoughtfulness during the meeting. They commended the board for thinking independently of the town council or manager, and expressed appreciation for the board’s deep concern for finding the facts.

The goal of the board is to wrap up the investigation by March 26, but Chairman Bogle stated that while this date is important, the board will take longer if necessary.

Among the concerned citizens at the board meeting last night were about a dozen members of Occupy Chapel Hill as well as Nomadic Occupy, a traveling encampment of the local Occupy group. Some entered the meeting inside; a few remained outside with tents and soup during the rainy weather.

“I think having eyes on the situation that do not have a vested interest in the outcome is important,” said Nomadic occupiers member Lila Little. “Police policing themselves can only go so far.”

The Nomadic Occupiers plan to continue their protests; Little stated that this was the “first of many such things.”

  • Pin It
    Chapel Hill Town Council should hire an independent investigator to review details of raid

Tags: , ,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Task force recommends $50,000 for eugenics victims

Posted by on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 9:34 AM

PHOTO © EYEWIRE
  • Photo © Eyewire

The living victims of North Carolina's eugenics program came closer Tuesday to receiving compensation when a task force authorized by Gov. Bev Perdue last March voted on its final recommendations.

"We were told that this would be a tough job. I don't think we knew at that time how tough it would be," Dr. Laura Gerald, the task force chair, said.

In keeping with the task force's preliminary recommendations and debates, the task force voted 3-2 in favor of recommending a $50,000 lump sum to verified living victims. With the vote, the stage is being set for a tough battle in the General Assembly as elected officials balance budget issues and victims and family members continue to fight for more.

Between 1929 and 1974, the State of North Carolina sterilized an estimated 7,600 men, women and children, several of which were present in the packed conference room Tuesday. Even after most states ended their programs after World War II, the N.C. Eugenics Board continued to approve sterilizations for often little more than the loosely defined definition of being "feebleminded" and therefore unfit to reproduce.

Since 2000, the State has issued an apology and two similar task force groups have sought to recommend courses of action, but compensation died both times in the General Assembly.

In previous meetings and debates the volunteer task force has received much criticism.

"It has been a difficult and at times very uncomfortable for us, as we have had several victims and their loved ones express disappointment in and even anger toward the task force for the amounts of compensation that we're considering," Gerald said.

Gerald, former journalist Phoebe Zerwick and historian Linwood Davis voted for the $50,000. Only 72 victims have come forward and have been verified as of Dec. 31. The three task force members believed the estimated 1,500—2,000 living victims would not come forward all at once.

"I believe that over a period of the years that will be outlaid in the statue of limitations that the state will be able to achieve a compensation of $50,000 per victim," Gerald said.

Attorney Demetrius Worley Berry and former judge Fetzer Mills recommended $20,000. Mills said she was worried about larger amounts, given the failure of the General Assembly to pass the $20,000 recommended in 2008.

In addition to the $50,000, members unanimously voted for a variety of other recommendations including mental health care, a three-year limit on when victims can come forward to apply for compensation and a public education effort through, among other things, restoring the state's mobile eugenics history exhibit.

The group also recognized the need to further staff and fund the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, which has three employees, for the purpose of administering and overseeing many of the recommendations made.

The task force's final report is due to Perdue Feb. 1, when she will review it and make her recommendations to the legislature.

"Throughout these proceedings, bipartisan support has strengthened. We believe that the governor and legislature should act now to seize the moment," Gerald said in her closing remarks.

The task force hopes the Legislature will act in this year's short session, which begins in May.

Many comments and suggestions have been put forward by victims, family members and concerned citizens, including a proposal brought to Tuesday's meeting by 10 victims and family members, asking for $1 million for living victims and estates of the deceased as well. Many of these comments and suggestions Gerald said would also be included in the report.

"We recognize that there are many other wonderful suggestions out there for recommendation, so again I think it is the hope and sentiment of this task force that our recommendations serve as the floor for action," Gerald said.

Many of the victims and family members present were unhappy with the results, but ready to move on with their lives.

Melissa Hyatt, stepdaughter of eugenics victim Charles Holt, said previous recommendations had felt like a slap in the face. "But today, I see a little bit of relief, especially on my dad's face and that's all that matters," Hyatt said. "Whatever makes him happy, I'm happy."

Elaine Riddick, sterilized at 14 after being raped and giving birth to her only son, would have liked $5 million to $10 million. 'I don't like the recommendation but I have to accept it. I have to accept it because I am ready to go on with my life," Riddick said.

Those involved are optimistic that action will be taken this time around. "It has appeared to me that there is pretty strong bipartisan support and I think what we've recommended is feasible," Zerwick said.

Delores Marks, daughter of a deceased victim and advocate for compensation to the estates of the deceased, recognized the fight is not over.

"We are going to continue to stay optimistic until the end," Marks said. "Until the end."

  • Pin It
    Next step for eugenics victims: The N.C. Legislature

Tags: , ,

Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro, 2.0

Posted by on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 9:29 AM

The band of people that descended upon and dismantled Occupy Chapel Hill was friendly, and also a bit sentimental. About a dozen Occupiers showed up Tuesday afternoon to remove the tents, tarps and random detritus that had sat with them in Peace and Justice Plaza since Oct. 15.

The voluntary disencampment isn't an abandonment of Occupy Chapel Hill. At the press conference that followed, Katya Roytburd, who helped organize the event, proclaimed, "I would like to welcome everyone here to Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro's celebration of Occupy 2.0, the next phase of our existence."

The decision was made last December at one of the group's general assembly meetings amid concerns over the camp's long-term sustainability. At its peak, the camp filled the small square except for a thin strip of walkway. Up to 35 people slept there overnight; at least one person was there during the day. Food and medical supplies had to be provided. Sanitation and cleanup were ongoing concerns.

Stephanie Daugherty has slept the majority of the past three months in an OCH tent and was often responsible for arranging night watches. OCH occasionally had confrontations with drunk and belligerent college students, the homeward-bound patrons of nearby bars and homeless people.

"It's taken a lot of time and energy," Daugherty says, sounding drained. The tents and overnighters have dwindled to five and around a half-dozen, respectively. "The proximity to the street and the proximity to the bars, the concrete, how exposed the space really is [means] the site is really a great site to make a political statement. It's really not a great site to camp in."

By breaking down the encampment, the next phase of OCH frees up much energy and personnel for other goals. Future plans include other and more frequent events, outreach seminars and teach-ins. For instance, OCH is participating in Occupy the Courts in Raleigh on Jan. 20, and promoting a Jan. 21 foreclosure prevention seminar hosted by the N.C. Central University School of Law in Durham.

And even the tents won't be completely gone. Temporary encampments will sprout up around Chapel Hill and Carrboro as occasion and causes demand—the Roving Occupy. "It actually expands our ability to connect and make alliances with more people in our community, because not everyone comes to this corner of Franklin Street," says Maria Rowan, who is part of the Roving Occupy working group. She hopes that only having occasional campouts will renew enthusiasm and turnout for OCH events.

Others in OCH fretted about the value of a permanent physical presence. Daugherty says, "The encampment's been a visual disruption as you go down Franklin Street and gives you an idea that something's not right here." Arturo Escobar, a professor of anthropology and self-described sympathizer of OCH who makes occasional small donations, said it's "very important to keep the issues in the public imagination. They might take the camp down today, but this needs to continue in different ways."

OCH is mindful of preserving its momentum. The group's website and blog will continue to be updated, and the listservs will be carefully tended. Peace and Justice Plaza will continue to host the regular general assembly meetings, open to all. And there are talks of getting a permanent indoor space or setting up information tables on the Plaza.

Ultimately the disencampment is a calculation that OCH hopes will pay off. "We're voluntarily taking this down, which is a huge change from other Occupy camps," says Lila Little, whose large, brown tent loomed before the post office door. "But everybody's different, and I think this will suit us fairly well."

  • Pin It
    The Occupy CH-C encampment is dismantled to make way for a new vision

Tags: ,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Task force meets Tuesday on compensation for N.C. sterilization victims

Posted by on Tue, Jan 10, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Elaine Riddick, a victim of forced sterilization, speaks before a state task force that could recommend compensation for the nearly 3,000 living victims sterilized through the N.C. Eugenics Board.
  • file photo by Adam David Kissick
  • Elaine Riddick, a victim of forced sterilization, speaks before a state task force that could recommend compensation for the nearly 3,000 living victims sterilized through the N.C. Eugenics Board.

A state task force will meet Tuesday to decide what compensation the state government should offer victims of North Carolina's eugenics program.

The N.C. Eugenics Board forcibly sterilized at least 7,600 men and women from 1929 to 1974. More than 2,900 of those victims are thought to be alive today. Nearly anyone could petition the state to sterilize someone and prevent them from reproducing because they were diseased, addicted to drugs, or "feebleminded." Read the Indy's coverage of the issue.

The Governor’s Eugenics Compensation Task Force released a preliminary report in August with a set of recommendations: lump sum financial compensation, plus health services for the living victims, funding for a traveling N.C. Eugenics Board exhibit and the continuation and expansion of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation.

The task force will finalize its report and send it to Gov. Bev Perdue. If Perdue accepts the recommendations, she could include compensation for victims and funding for other services in her state budget, which will go to the N.C. General Assembly when it reconvenes in May.

  • Pin It
    Victims of forced sterilization could receive compensation, health services

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, January 9, 2012

UPDATE: DSS investigation: legal missteps, unfair salaries and benefits, and possible cronyism

Posted by on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 5:46 PM

Circus_Dreamstime.jpg
  • Tupungato via Dreamstime

UPDATE, 1/9
To update our previous report, Durham County Internal Auditor Richard Edwards confirmed today that the unnamed commissioner he mentions in his report as asking department heads to consider hiring specific people is Commissioner Joe Bowser.

According to Edwards, Bowser approached the director of The Durham Center, which provides mental health services for county residents, as well as the head of the Durham County Health Department. Both incidents happened some time within the past two years, he said.

It was the head of The Durham Center who felt uncomfortable receiving the recommendation from Bowser, Edwards said. Ellen Holliman, director for the center, didn't return a call seeking comment.

Gayle Harris, director of the health department, confirmed what was in Edwards' report—that she didn't feel awkward or pressured when Bowser approached her about a potential hire.

Bowser hasn't returned messages from the Indy seeking comment, but took the microphone at Monday's regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners to say that he did call Holliman in 2009 to recommend a well qualified, unemployed Durham County resident for a new position that the county had opened.

"At no time did I do any coercing or thought that I was putting any pressure on the director, as she has stated, to hire this woman," Bowser said. He added,"Our citizens should have the right to contact us for help. I will continue to try to help them, even in situations like this."

Edwards said he doesn't believe Bowser's actions violate the Board of Commissioners' ethics policy (PDF). At the commissioners' meeting Monday, County Attorney Lowell Siler gave the same opinion.

But late last week, Commissioner Michael Page, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said he thought the move was inappropriate.

"If somebody asks me what can I do to help them get this job ... I will serve as a reference," Page said. "But I do not call a department head to say 'so-and-so is submitting an application'."

It's unclear what, if anything, the commissioners will do or say to address the apparent impropriety.

"I would say, as a rule, that that’s not a good thing, but I wasn’t around for the events surrounding this controversy," Commissioner Pam Karriker, who took her seat on the board in October, said about Bowser's requests. "But I know that there are two sides to every story."

Page says the commissioners sought the answers, and it's the public that should decide what comes next.

"It's not my place to figure out what do you do about it, and who did it," Page said last week, before Edwards confirmed that Bowser was the unnamed commissioner. "You've got citizens in Durham to demand an answer about it."

ORIGINAL POST, 1/3
Investigative reports by Durham County’s internal auditor (report 1, PDF) and an out-of-town attorney (report 2, PDF)—two long-awaited reviews finally released Tuesday—answer some of the myriad questions surrounding the departure last summer of former Social Services Director Gerri Robinson and the subsequent appointment of Interim Director Gail Perry.

The reports fill in some details of Robinson’s messy departure in July, and expand on accusations that her cool manner with employees caused several to leave their jobs. The findings also look into an accusation by Michael Page, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, that fellow Commissioner Joe Bowser might have pressured county department heads to hire friends or associates.

Although commissioners pushed for this investigation last fall as an attempt to clear the air on Robinson’s firing and restore public faith in county government, the findings paint an unflattering picture of the management of the social services department, of Robinson and of relationships among commissioners. All five of their seats will be up for election this year.

Among the findings released in Tuesday's reports:

— A county commissioner (unnamed in the reports) has asked at least two heads of county departments to employ a specific person, and at least one of the department heads who was approached felt uncomfortable or pressured about it.

87 employees left during Robinson’s tenure as the director, 54 of them resigning. (This might not be excessive compared to other directors.)

— Based on available information, Robinson overpaid an employee who worked for her directly, and who other DSS employees described as Robinson’s personal assistant.

— Since August, the county has been paying for benefits and/or for holiday leave for Perry, but as a temporary county employee, she is not eligible for such benefits, and the county now has to recoup that money.

Perhaps the weightiest finding by one of the investigators, New Bern attorney Jimmie Hicks Jr., was that a state conflict-of-interest law might have been violated when Perry was appointed in July to become the interim director of the Department of Social Services. Perry didn't return calls for comment Tuesday.

Continue reading…

  • Pin It
    Investigation probes firing and hiring of Durham social services directors

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fracking and the menace of methane

Posted by on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 3:32 PM

If anyone in the General Assembly listened to the scientists at the hydraulic fracturing workshop at Duke University today, then any pro-fracking legislation should be dead in North Carolina. That’s not a given: Last week, the GOP-led majority threatened a midnight override to Gov. Perdue’s veto of Senate Bill 709, which would have opened the door to fracking in North Carolina, but the party couldn’t muster the votes.

Considering the Legislature’s shenanigans over the past year, we shouldn’t assume the majority would base a vote on facts. But for the rest of you who don’t have campaign coffers to fill and political favors to return, here’s the take-home message about fracking: Based on available data, which admittedly is limited in some cases, fracking is fraught with environmental hazards, including air and water pollution, and it may contribute to, or even accelerate the pace of, climate change.

The public event was five-and-a-half hours long—you can watch an archive of the livestream—so I’ll touch only on the main environmental points:

Fracking requires water, a lot of it, to combine with other chemicals so drillers can force the fluid into cracks below the ground, thus releasing the gas. How much water? Around 2 million to 4 million gallons per well. Pennsylvania has 1,400 of these wells, and if you do the math, said Avner Vengosh, Duke University professor of geochemistry and water quality, fracking operations in that state use an average of about 15 million gallons of water per day. For comparison’s sake, he noted that Durham customers use 20 million to 25 million gallons of water per day.

It’s not just the water quantity that suffers; the water quality does, too. The flowback from the well—think of it as the well’s acid reflux—contains water, fracking chemicals, oil and toxic elements including barium, arsenic, lead and bromide. Disposing of this water also presents problems: Injecting it back into the ground can contaminate groundwater. (Pennsylvania no longer allows new drilling of injection wells, and haulers are taking the water to Ohio, where geologists believe the injection wells are linked to earthquakes in the region.)

Discharging the water into rivers and streams can harm ecosystems. Few municipal treatment plants can adequately filter and clean the wastewater. And there is a limit to the water’s reuse because of the chemicals and high salt content.

Kelvin Gregory, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University, noted there are no cost-effective technologies to treat the water, and even reusing it creates problems: storage, transportation and the unknown effect of high salt content on the other chemicals.

Methane is a crucial part of the fracking issue. The gas is vented from the wells, and inevitably some of it escapes into the atmosphere—or it can leak beneath the surface into groundwater. When it comes to greenhouse gases, methane emissions are a bad actor, with the potential to accelerate climate change even more than carbon dioxide.

Vengosh of Duke is updating a paper he and co-authors Rob Jackson, Stephen Osborn and Nathaniel Warner published last year that concluded drinking water wells in Pennsylvania near fracking operations were more likely to have higher levels of methane in them than wells that were farther away. Why? Improper well casings, possibly, that allow gas to leak into naturally occurring cracks.

And shale gas, which is produced from fracking, contains more methane than other fossil fuels, even coal, says Robert Howarth, professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell, who published a paper with that conclusion. (The paper, he acknowledged, is quite controversial within the scientific community.)

According to his analysis, methane emissions are 40 percent higher from shale gas than conventional gas because of venting. The EPA says that number is 60 percent, but there are a few scientists who say there is no difference. (Howarth disputes their findings; might we see a scientific fisticuffs?)

But if Howarth is right, he wins the award for the most ominous prediction of the day: “We need to control methane immediately or within the next 15 to 20 years we meet the irreversible tipping points in the system.”

Now the question is: Will the North Carolina Legislature listen?

  • Pin It
    The take away from Duke's fracking workshop? Keep fracking out of N.C.

Tags: , , , , ,

Fracking and earthquakes

Posted by on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 10:24 AM

I'm at the fracking workshop at Duke today and someone just asked a question about the connection between fracking activities and earthquakes, such as those that occurred last year near fracking operations in Arkansas and Ohio.

Michael Parker of ExxonMobil, who is among the speakers, was quick to mention that the wells potentially related to the quakes are injection wells—not drilling wells. Companies use injection wells, also known as disposal wells, to dump the material that is extracted with the gas or oil. This can include drilling chemicals and corrosion inhibitors. Think of the wells as a place to dump your acid reflux.

These are not innocuous operations, even if the earth is not moving under your feet. In 2006, I wrote a story about a historically African-American community in DeBerry, Texas, where the private wells had been contaminated by material from disposal wells. You can read that story here: www2.sacurrent.com/news/story.asp?id=61632

So even if injections wells are found not guilty of causing earthquakes, they pose other hazards.

  • Pin It
    Injection wells, earthquakes and more troubles

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Protest, march to Chapel Hill Town Hall on tap tonight in wake of Yates report

Posted by on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 9:58 AM

A group angered by Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil's endorsement of the Nov. 13 police action at the Yates Motor Co. building on Franklin Street will gather at 6 p.m. tonight at Peace and Justice Plaza and march to Town Hall where Stancil's report will be considered by the town council.

On that crisp Sunday afternoon in November, a Special Emergency Response Team charged and arrested eight people who broke into and occupied the Yates building, also known as the Chrysler Building, in attempt to turn the long-vacant property into a community center.

Critics say the police rushed in without warning and that the takeover of the building was peaceful and did not warrant a squad of police bearing assault rifles.

Stancil found in his report that the incident took place without injury and was warranted after two unsuccessful attempts by police to talk to the occupants.

Council will receive Stancil's report, released to the public late Friday, at its 7 p.m. business meeting.

The protest is endorsed by the Chapel Hill Prison Books Collective and Croatan Earth First!. The full press release is below.

Continue reading…

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Calendar

Facebook Activity

Twitter Activity

Comments

Proudly, any semblance that you are an intelligent, objective thinker just flew out the window with this incredibly moronic, male-centric, …

by David Klein on Former teacher arrested on sex charges (News)

Oops, I think I goofed here. This case looks like the female teacher had sex with a girl. Oh goodness, …

by ProudlyUnaffiliated on Former teacher arrested on sex charges (News)

© 2014 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation