When issuing an official press release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources—or pretending to—it's wise to include the agency secretary's name.
That was among the tells when the Indy received a "press release" alleging that DENR has apologized for its controversial draft report on fracking, in which the agency said it could be done safely in North Carolina if the right protections were in place. The release also falsely stated that DENR had reversed its position.
More reasons to doubt the release's legitimacy:
A) That's too good to be true.
B) The email came from firstname.lastname@example.org (DENR addresses have a .gov suffix) and the "Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs" (which does exist).
C) I sent the email to DENR for verification; an agency spokesperson said that the email is fake.
I then plugged the originating IP address into to several databases that trace these addresses, but the results were inconclusive; the email could have been sent from several computers or mobile devices, or the databases could be wrong. Nonetheless, the cities of origin came back as Clayton, Rocky Mount and Elizabeth City, so the best guess is "east of Raleigh."
As the Indy reported last week, the draft report contained 444 pages of scientific research that cast doubt on fracking—research that contradicted the report's political conclusion that it could be done safely.
A public hearing about the report is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. today at East Chapel Hill High School, 500 Weaver Dairy Road. DENR is also taking public comment via email until April 1: email@example.com
The Indy has long reported on the potential environmental and socio-economic damages from fracking. Readers could rightfully argue that we've been skeptical of fracking to the point of advocating against it.
But even if we agree with the underlying argument that fracking is a bad idea—issuing a fake press release? It's not a very convincing way to get your point across. Very 2008. Yawn.
And the name of the DENR Secretary is Dee Freeman.
On Thursday afternoon Uriel Alberto stepped out of the bleakly lit Wake County Jail and into the sunshine. He had traded his orange-and-white striped jumpsuit for an orange T-shirt that read "undocumented and unafraid."
"I'm excited to be out," Alberto, 24, said, after posting a $7,500 immigration bond. "But it's bittersweet. I met a lot of men in there who won't be going home. They are not going to walk out of there."
Alberto was among three people affiliated with the NC DREAM Team and El Cambio who were arrested Feb. 29 on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges afer protesting a meeting of the House Select Committee on the State's Role on Immigration Policy. His fellow protesters were released; he was jailed because he has several misdemeanor convictions, including driving with a revoked license, speeding and DWI.
He had spent more than two weeks in jail, 10 of those days on hunger strike. On this afternoon, his leather belt was cinched tightly around his waist to keep his blue jeans up.
Alberto, who lives in Winston-Salem, spent a portion of his incarceration and hunger strike in solitary confinement. "I thought about not having a chance to give my family and friends a hug and a kiss," said Alberto, who, at 7, was brought by his parents to the U.S. from Oaxaca, Mexico. "I want to go back to Winston-Salem and do that and say things to my family and friends that need to be said."
His criminal hearing is April 2 in Wake County; his immigration hearing has not been set, but it is under the federal jurisdiction of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Tonight, though, Alberto is looking forward to one thing: "I want my mom to fix her special enchiladas." The secret ingredient? Oaxacan mole.
When Americans for Prosperity praise a Democrat, it's never good news.
The überconservative group applauded Gov. Bev Perdue yesterday for her support of fracking, after she told WRAL-TV that it would be permissible in North Carolina if the controversial drilling method could be regulated.
"Governor Perdue should be applauded for this important change of her policy position on energy exploration," read a statement by Dallas Woodhouse, AFP-NC state director.
That's a big if, and one that other fracking states—Ohio, New York Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Virginia and even, the big drilling kahuna, Texas—have largely failed to accomplish. Those states have experienced major environmental problems—contaminated drinking water wells and earthquakes, for starters—that have been linked to fracking. Nationwide, the evidence continues to pile up that fracking is environmentally harmful, releasing methane—a prime mover in greenhouse gas emissions—and wreaking serious wastewater disposal havoc on communities.
Perdue and N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources chief Dee Freeman visited Pennsylvania recently to tour fracking operation, The News & Observer reported. Shell Oil, which also debriefed Perdue and her entourage, has long purported that fracking is safe when properly regulated.
Did the dog and pony show tour other fracking sites, including a livestock operation that was quarantined in 2010 because wastewater from a nearby gas well leaked into a field and came into contact with the animals? Or the well in northeast Pennsylvania that experienced a blow out, releasing hazardous fracking fluids onto the ground? Did she see the energy companies discharge vast quantities of wastewater into rivers and streams, as they've repeatedly done in the past? Did she talk to residents who reportedly are suffering health problems from fracking?
Uriel Alberto, an undocumented immigrant and activist who has been jailed since Feb. 29, has been granted an $7,500 immigration bond.
Alberto, 24, was among three people arrested on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges after demonstrating at a meeting of the House Select Committee on the State's Role in Immigration Policy. The other two undocumented immigrants were released on bond, but since Alberto has a criminal record of several misdemeanors, he was jailed on a federal immigration detainer.
Alberto, who also went on a 10-day hunger strike, remains in the Wake County Jail until his family and friends can raise the $7,500 or an equivalent amount in collateral, which is often required by immigration bonding companies. This differs from criminal bonds in that defendants in that arrangement often are required to post only a percentage of the bond amount. The NC DREAM Team, a group of young undocumented immigrants and activists, is raising money for his bond.
According to his attorney Beckie Moriello, if Alberto posts his bond and is released, he would be required to inform Immigration and Customs Enforcements officials of his home address and to notify them within five days if he moves. ICE could place other restrictions on him as well.
Alberto's criminal hearing is April 2; his date in immigration court has not been set.
The Pittsboro Town Board voted unanimously Monday night to approve part of an anti-fracking resolution that asks the Legislature to keep the controversial drilling practice illegal. Some board members wanted to further study some of the language in the proposed resolution, but the gist of the sentiment is that no, Pittsboro does not want itself, or anyone, fracked. (Approved language is below the break.)
The board will present this version of the resolution to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources at a public hearing in Sanford on March 20. The board will then take up entire resolution again on March 26.
Apex Town Councilor Scott Lassiter has decided not to blame his recent driving while impaired conviction on indigestion. He had planned to argue before a jury in Wake County Superior Court that Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)—the common cause of indigestion and heartburn—contaminated his breathalyzer reading. Instead, he accepted the guilty verdict at an appeal hearing today.
Lassiter registered a blood alcohol content of .11, three-tenths of a point higher than the legal limit for driving, when he was charged with the misdemeanor in February 2011. Despite being charged nine months before he won a town council seat, the story of his arrest didn’t surface until after the election.
Lassiter and his attorney, James Crouch, appealed the guilty verdict as soon as it was handed down in January. At Monday’s hearing Crouch cited money as Lassiter’s reason for not going ahead with the appeal.
“He’d have had to hire at least two experts and there is no guarantee of the outcome,” said Crouch. “I think he really wanted to get it behind him and not have it be a distraction to the people of Apex.”
A doctor and a breathalyzer expert are needed to present for a GERD defense. Lassiter will now serve 12 months of unsupervised probation, pay a $100 fine, undergo an alcohol assessment and do community service.
Some community members in Apex, including former councilor Bryan Gossage, have said Lassiter should step down if convicted. But Lassiter, with the backing of fellow-Republican Mayor Keith Weatherly, has said he does not intend to give up his seat.
The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the conduct of Crouch, a high-profile DWI attorney, and Wake County District Court Judge Kristin Ruth over the alleged changing of conviction dates in about a dozen DWI cases. The list of cases and defendants has not been released, but currently there is no disclosed evidence that Lassiter was among them.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 Natural Gas and the Future of NC, a Scientific Perspective," a moderated forum; sponsored by Campbell University, 56 Main St., Buies Creek, at the Turner Auditorium in D. Rich Hall
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources will also hold two meetings this month to present its draft report on fracking and take public comments:
- March 20, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center, 1801 Nash St., Sanford
- March 27, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at East Chapel Hill High School, 500 Weaver Dairy Road, Chapel Hill
Pittsboro could join the towns of Creedmoor and Carrboro in its official opposition to fracking if the Town Board passes a resolution tonight.
The resolution asks the General Assembly to “maintain current laws in North Carolina that prevent hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the state,” unless it can be proven that the controversial practice would not damage the environment, economy or public health.
Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller has publicly opposed fracking.
Fracking is illegal in North Carolina, although last year, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 709, that would have opened the door for energy companies to drill on land and offshore. Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed the bill.
Energy companies have targeted Chatham and Lee counties as potential drilling sites, and have already signed leases with landowners in case fracking is legalized.
Fracking uses a chemical stew to help fracture rock below ground and release the gas trapped there. Methane leaked from these fracking wells has been detected in drinking wells in other states where the practice is legal.
In addition to the potential harm to the Haw River, Jordan Lake and other waterways, there are concerns that injection wells used in fracking, which have been linked to dozens of earthquakes in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arkansas, could cause similar problems in Chatham County. The area, the resolution says, is near the Jonesboro Fault and within 25 miles of the Shearon Harris nuclear plant. However, plant officials have said Shearon Harris was built to withstand earthquakes up to 6.1 on the Richter Scale. The Ohio quakes measured between 2.7 and 4.0.
It would be a major vote for the two newest board members, Beth Turner and Bett Foley Wilson, who were elected last fall.
The board will hear from several speakers who helped draft the resolution. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Pittsboro Town Hall, 635 East St.
Editor's note: This blog has been updated from its original content as news in the Tracey Cline case has developed this morning.
Seconds after Tracey Cline, Durham’s district attorney, learned she was being ousted from office, she and her attorneys ducked into a jury room on the fifth floor of Durham’s courthouse without a word to the mass of media and citizens who had assembled there.
Cline, 48, emerged from the room about 10 minutes later, appearing composed. She clasped the hand of a man described as her long-term boyfriend, and strode past a swarm of television cameras and bright spotlights to descend the courthouse’s back stairs.
Cline, who had been Durham’s top prosecutor for three years, wouldn’t comment on the decision of Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood to permanently remove Cline from office. But the Pinehurst legal team that Cline assembled just three weeks ago filed a notice Friday morning that they’ll appeal the decision. (Read the ruling, PDF)
As the judge ruled against her, Cline thanked him for taking the time to consider the matter.
“And I thank you for, in the past, being an extremely effective litigator for the state of North Carolina and the citizens of Durham County,” replied Hobgood, a visiting judge from Franklin County.
“I appreciate it judge, that means a lot to me,” Cline replied.
Hobgood concluded that public statements Cline made about Durham’s Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson last fall have interfered with the regular operation of the courthouse and brought Durham’s judicial system into “disrepute.”
Cline’s attorneys tried to prove that, among other reasons, Cline should not be removed from office because her speech was protected by the First Amendment. Hudson did find that some of her comments may fall under the “umbrella” of free speech.
But other statements, including accusations in public documents that Hudson was guilty of misconduct, “moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption,” that he had “kidnapped” the rights of victims and their families, and that he and others had the “blood of justice” on their hands, were not protected.
“This false, malicious, direct attack on Judge Orlando F. Hudson Jr., to which Judge Hudson, under the Code of Judicial Conduct, cannot respond publicly, goes far beyond any protected speech under the First Amendment and cannot be and is not supported by any facts in the record,” Hobgood wrote in his final ruling. “These specific statements were made with actual malice and with reckless disregard for the truth.”
Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood will announce a decision Friday morning on whether suspended Durham District Attorney should keep her job.
The hearing has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 3 on the fifth floor of the Durham County Courthouse.
Hobgood will consider whether the state should remove Cline, 48, from the elected office she has held for three years, or whether her rights to free speech apply in claims she made against Durham Judge Orlando Hudson. Read more about the case here.