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Friday, April 6, 2018

What Does Shady EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Actually Have to Do to Get Himself Fired?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 10:03 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. I’ve written quite a bit lately about Scott Pruitt, the embattled EPA administrator who has shown a casual indifference to the fate of the planet and a malevolent coziness with the fossil-fuel industry, including a shady-as-hell condo deal with a lobbyist’s wife in DC (for which he fell behind on payments, despite the low rate) . Now we’re learning some more info...

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

How Smelly Is Too Smelly? What We Learned From the First Two Days of the Murphy-Brown Hog Nuisance Trial.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2018 at 9:41 AM

The showdown between an eastern North Carolina hog farm and its neighbors continued Wednesday in the second day (not including a day dedicated to jury selection) of a trial about the odors and nuisance allegedly caused by industrial hog operations. The outcome of the trial could force the world's largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods subsidiary Murphy-Brown LLC, to change the way it manages its hog waste—an issue that has been a point of contention for the communities surrounding Murphy-Brown-operated hog farms for decades. At its core, the trial is about pig poop. Plaintiffs suing the food giant argue that the farms'...

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Opening Statements Begin in the First Case Against Pork Giant Murphy-Brown

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 8:24 AM

Opening statements kicked off yesterday in the nuisance trial against Murphy-Brown LLC, the pork-producing subsidiary of the global food giant Smithfield Fields. The trial is part of twenty-six federal lawsuits filed by more than five hundred plaintiffs living near hog farms in Eastern North Carolina. The plaintiffs say that the farms' waste-management systems, which consist of storing excess hog waste in open-air pits and then liquifying and spraying the remains onto nearby fields, has created viscous smells that negatively impact their health and quality of life. The first lawsuit involves ten plaintiffs who live near Kinlaw Farm in Bladen County....

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency Has Zero Interest in Protecting the Environment

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 8:55 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. In any normal administration, the myriad scandals surrounding EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt—especially the cozy deal he struck with a fossil fuel lobbyist for a DC condo—would have led to his ouster. Indeed, the Trump administration has considered giving Pruitt the well-deserved boot, though more for being a headache than being an utterly corrupt scoundrel totally in the pocket of the fossil fuel...

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

The NCGOP Is Desperate to Put the Stink of Scandal on Roy Cooper

Posted By on Thu, Feb 15, 2018 at 9:27 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. For the state Republican Party, the troubling thing about Roy Cooper is that, well, he’s popular. In the most recent poll, he’s at 46 percent approval, with only 26 percent disapproving [ABC 11]. His exceedingly safe, uber-centrist form of Democratic politics doesn’t polarize people the way that, say, the General Assembly’s merry band of ideologues does. So, with elections forthcoming and the...

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Attorney General Josh Stein Asks the Trump Administration Not to Open Up the Coast to Offshore Drilling

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 11:44 AM

Last month, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that he was opening nearly all offshore waters to oil and gas drilling, reversing a ban imposed by Barack Obama near the end of his presidency in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. This is part of a distinctive pattern in the Trump administration, which has shown remarkable fealty to the oil and gas sectors while taking every opportunity to antagonize environmental groups. The governors of several coastal states immediately objected, and Zinke seemed sympathetic to one of them: Trump ally Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, who is thinking of running...

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Trump’s Failing War on Solar Could Hurt North Carolina

Posted By on Wed, Jan 24, 2018 at 9:24 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. On Monday, the Trump administration slapped 30 percent tariffs on solar imports. The New York Times is out with a story from a Zebulon solar farm, talking about the potential effects of the tariffs on the industry. Some highlights: “Across North Carolina, textile factories and tobacco farms have disappeared, giving way to fields of solar panels. But for those venturing into solar...

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Unlikely to Bring Economic Development to Three Eastern North Carolina counties, Report Finds

Posted By on Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 1:28 PM

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $5 billion infrastructure project, is unlikely to bring economic development to three eastern North Carolina counties, according to a new report. The report was authored by Nancy LaPlaca, an energy consultant who previously worked for the advocacy group NC Warn, and published by the Alliance to Protect our People and Places We Live (APPPL), an organization formed in opposition to the pipeline. It contradicts earlier predictions by pipeline developers that the project will encourage development in Johnston, Cumberland, and Robeson counties, three of eight eastern North Carolina counties the six-hundred-mile pipeline is slated to run through. The ACP would...

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Opponents Screen Documentary About Pipeline Resistance, Urge Cooper Administration to Reject Necessary Permits

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 9:58 AM

Atlantic Coast Pipeline opponents huddled inside Raleigh's Unitarian Universalist church last night to watch Water Warriors, a documentary tracking a remote Canadian community's successful fight against a Texas-based oil and gas company. The screening was part of an ongoing statewide effort to oppose the ACP, a six-hundred-mile pipeline that would transport fracked gas from West Virginia through Virginia and into eight eastern North Carolina counties. A fierce opposition movement has coalesced around the $5 billion mega-project. The joint venture by Duke and Dominion energies is one of eleven proposed pipelines in the Southeast, five of which have already been approved by the Federal...

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Court Stays Civitas Institute's Francis De Luca Appeal of Smithfield Agreement Lawsuit

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 6:00 PM

Earlier this week, the Court of Appeals stayed a Wake County judge's ruling last month that dismissed a lawsuit filed last year by Francis De Luca, the president of the conservative Civitas Institute. The lawsuit, filed in October 2016, claimed that then-attorney general Roy Cooper had diverted money from public schools to environmental projects in conflict with state law. The money at the center of the lawsuit was the result of a 2000 settlement known as the Smithfield Agreement, in which former attorney general Mike Easley made a deal with pork giant Smithfield Foods that required the company to invest tens of millions...

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Civitas Institute's Francis De Luca Loses Lawsuit Over Smithfield Foods Agreement

Posted By on Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 4:25 PM

A Wake County judge ruled earlier this month against a lawsuit filed last year by Francis De Luca, the president of the conservative Civitas Institute, over a 2000 settlement between Smithfield Foods and the state attorney general to fund a multimillion-dollar experiment to find more sustainable methods of disposing of hog waste. The news was first reported by NC Policy Watch. The lawsuit, filed in October 2016 by De Luca, claimed that then-attorney general Roy Cooper had diverted money from public schools to environmental projects in conflict with state law. The money at the center of the lawsuit was the result...

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

FERC Approves Atlantic Coast Pipeline, But N.C. DEQ Can Stop it in its Tracks

Posted By on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 at 1:16 PM

Last week, the INDY published an in-depth look at the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $5 billion infrastructure project by Duke Energy and Dominion Energy that would carry fracked gas through West Virginia, Virginia, and eight counties in eastern North Carolina. If approved and constructed, the pipeline would cross six hundred miles of the Southeast and transport about 1.5 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas to customers in North Carolina and Virginia. Since the project's introduction, it’s been controversial. In North Carolina alone, it would cross more than 320 waterways and directly pass through the properties of about a...

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

N.C. Climate Activists Hold Prayer Vigil and Fast in Opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Posted By on Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 10:48 PM

Just over a year ago, fifty-one-year-old Greg Yost decided to quit his job. It wasn't because he didn't like it—he loved teaching math to ninth graders in Madison County, just outside Asheville. But he had other concerns: namely, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a multibillion dollar, six hundred-mile project that would carry fracked gas through Virginia, West Virginia, and eight counties in eastern North Carolina. Yost was worried about the project's environmental consequences and the precedent it would set for the state. He saw the proposal as a make-or-break moment. "If this infrastructure gets built, it’s there for the next thirty or forty...

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Durham's First Sustainability Report Finds Residential Greenhouse Gas Emissions Are Down 7 Percent

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 11:05 AM

Among the highlights of the city of Durham's first-ever sustainability report: residential greenhouse gas emissions are down 7 percent since 2008, despite population growth, and Durham residents are using 23 percent less water than the average North Carolinian. The report looks at the city's waste management, energy efficiency, transportation system and green infrastructure, and some future sustainability projects. ”In addition to shedding light on Durham’s recent accomplishments, the information will help inform a comprehensive Sustainability Plan,” says city sustainability specialist Erin Victor. “By reflecting on our progress, we can identify new opportunities to make Durham an even more resilient and...

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Primer: NoKo Nukes, Hog Waste, and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 9:15 AM

Hey, everyone. Hope you had a wonderful Fourth. Holidays tend to be slow news days, and this one was no exception, particularly on the local front. But I do have a few items to get through this morning, including the increasingly messy North Korea situation. So, without further ado, let’s get into it. —Jeffrey C. Billman. 1. TRUMP HAS NO GOOD OPTIONS WITH NORTH KOREA. THE GIST: Remember in January, when President Trump pledged that North Korea would never be able to develop a missile capable of reaching the U.S.? As The New York Times notes, “there were two things...

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Friday, June 2, 2017

The Morning Roundup: Trump Kicks Planet in the Face

Posted By on Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 8:55 AM

It's Friday, but there's really not much to celebrate. 1) Trump pulls U.S. out of historic Paris climate accord. It's not exactly shocking that President Donald Trump made good on a campaign promise and pulled the U.S. out of the most significant climate agreement in history. But it's still a disaster. From The Washington Post: President Trump announced Thursday afternoon that he is withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris climate agreement, an extraordinary move that dismayed America’s allies and set back the global effort to address the warming planet. Trump’s decision set off alarms worldwide, drawing swift and...

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thom Tillis Urged Trump to Pull Out of Paris Climate Accord, Netted $263,400 From Oil and Gas Companies

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 4:42 PM

Well, it's official. After turning his decision on the Paris Climate Accord into a protracted reality TV episode (will he pull out? Tune in at three to find out!), Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the landmark climate agreement today, making good on a campaign promise and aligning the U.S. with Syria and Nicaragua as the only nonparticipants in the world. Environmentalists reacted to the news as one might expect: with anger and disgust. In a piece for The New York Times, Bill McKibben, the founder of the environmental group 350.org, called it "our nation’s dumbest act since launching...

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The Morning Roundup: Trump Expected to Pull U.S. Out of Paris Accord

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 10:37 AM

Let's get right to it. 1) President expected to withdraw from Paris accord. Sorry, Mother Nature. From The New York Times: The Obama administration pledged $3 billion to an international fund meant to aid the hardest-hit countries. Only $1 billion of that had been transferred to the fund by the time President Trump took office on Jan. 20. He wants to walk away from the balance of the commitment, though Congress may have the last word. Mr. Trump, his Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt and Stephen K. Bannon, a top White House adviser, argue that meeting the terms of...

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

N.C. House Backs Big Pork, Votes to Override Cooper's HB 467 Veto

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 4:37 PM

Governor Cooper's veto of House Bill 467, a bill that would limit liability in agricultural nuisance cases, is halfway to being overridden. The N.C. House voted 74–40 in favor of the override; the vote was mostly along party lines, with Republicans voting for it. The timing is interesting, given that less than a week ago, lawyers representing hundreds of plaintiffs involved in twenty-six federal lawsuits against Murphy-Brown LLC, the hog division of Smithfield Foods, submitted evidence they say proves fecal matter from hog farms is ending up on and likely inside the homes of people who live near them. As...

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Trump Shafts North Carolina After Hurricane Matthew Relief Request

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 12:58 PM

What do you get when your state helps elect a president and then requests $900 million from his administration to help rebuild after one of the worst natural disasters in its history? If you're North Carolina, not much. In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Governor Cooper requested nearly a billion dollars from the Trump administration. Last month, Cooper announced in a press release this morning, he learned that the state would only receive $6.1 million—less than 1 percent of the ask. “Families across Eastern North Carolina need help to rebuild and recover, and it is an incredible failure by the...

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Friday, May 5, 2017

UPDATED: Study Shows N.C. Hog Farms Spray Hog Poop on Neighbors’ Homes; Cooper Vetoes HB 467

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 10:16 AM

During a debate last month over House Bill 467—a failed proposal to shield hog farms owned by a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods from twenty-six federal nuisance lawsuits brought by their neighbors—state representative and bill sponsor Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin and Wayne, called claims that hog waste was ending up on people’s homes preposterous. What’s more, he continued, the people making those claims were lying. "These allegations are at best exaggerations and at worst outright lies," said Dixon, a retired farmer who has received more than $115,000 in campaign contributions from Big Pork. "When you talk about spraying fluid on people's' houses...

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Poll: Trump Tanking in North Carolina

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 11:43 AM

As the nation prepares to mark President Donald Trump's hundredth day in office, a new poll suggests that the man who captured nearly fifty percent of the popular vote in North Carolina is no longer feeling the same level of love from the Old North State. The Elon University Poll conducted a live-called survey of more than 500 registered voters between April 18 and April 21 and the news was less than spectacular for Trump. From the report: 41.6% of North Carolinians approve of how Trump is handling his job as president. North Carolina voters’ approval of Trump tracks closely with...

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Amended Hog Nuisance Bill, Courtesy of Big Pork Pal Senator Brent Jackson, Clears N.C. Senate Committee

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 6:14 PM

An amended version of a controversial hog-farm-protection bill, HB 467, passed the Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday afternoon and is now headed to the Senate Rules Committee. As the INDY has previously reported, HB 467 would restrict the amount of money property owners could collect in nuisance lawsuits filed against agricultural operations, including hog farms. If passed, it would essentially cap the damages property owners could collect in nuisance lawsuits at the fair market value of their property, which critics say is often made lower by the presence of commercial farms. A particularly contentious (and legally dubious) part of the bill...

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The Downtown Raleigh Alliance Says Downtown Raleigh Is Growing Fast and Growing Right

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 2:02 PM

According to a lengthy report released Tuesday by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, the City of Oaks is growing rapidly and adding amenities indicative of the right kind of expansion. Among the highlights noted in the annual State of Downtown Raleigh report are: • $1.75 billion in recent, ongoing, and upcoming development; • 3,672 new residential units; • $200 million in food and beverage sales last year • An additional one thousand hotel rooms coming to the city's core; • The construction of three hundred acres of additional green space. If you have some time to kill, check out the complete...

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The Morning Roundup: Tensions Escalate on the Korean Peninsula

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 9:01 AM

We might not have much time. Let's get right into it. 1) North Korea flexes its military muscle. Trump sends nuclear submarine as a "show of force." North Korea paraded around some missiles and held a "large-scale artillery drill" to celebrate its military's anniversary. Not a new thing—but this time, there's a catch. Experts say the country is capable of expanding its nuclear arsenal at an alarming rate. From The New York Times: Behind the Trump administration’s sudden urgency in dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis lies a stark calculus: a growing body of expert studies and classified intelligence reports...

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