North Carolina is going through some tough times right now. As someone whose blog is supposed to cover Southern politics with merely a focus on his home here in the Carolinas, it gets to be pretty damn difficult to not have an inherent bias towards coverage of my home state, especially when the admittedly left-leaning NC Policy Watch has headlines like DHHS Looking at Cuts to Programs for Disabled Babies, Toddlers to tsk audibly at. It goes without saying that we have some problems, but at this point, as I've been saying since Inauguation 2013, our state government is basically just trolling us at this point.
Gov. Pat McCrory, probably pictured here telling dead baby jokes or some shit, Getty Images.
Previously in NC energy reform, on the heels of an underreported and environmentally cataclysmic coal ash spill, the totally unbiased NC Energy Policy Countcil (staffed exlusively by Duke Energy alums who worked alongside Gov. McCrory) that announced Duke Energy would not, in fact, be held responsible for cleaning up the 82,000 tons of toxic slurry, but that the cleanup efforts surrounding the Dan River disaster would be the obligation of the taxpayer.
This money is at least partially coming from the increase in utility tax in NC, which is currently 3% for wholesale and 3.22%. Effective July 1st, there will no longer be a utility tax on wholesale trading, benefiting energy companies immensely. The retail utility tax for consumers, however, will more than double to 7%.
So, as you can see, the Legislature and NCEPC clearly have our best interests in mind. Which is why it is no surprise that, despite the moratorium imposed in 2012, the Capitol has passed an energy bill that will allow for fast track fracking permits.
In an absolute rejection of precedent policy, permits will be issued as soon as 60 days after the Mining & Energy Commission (a disturbing collection of former lobbyists and conflicts of interest in it's own right) sets the rules of engagement, a process that previously required the oversight of the entire legislature. More troubling, the bill has language that critics say can be used to give drilling companies eminent domain-like powers for drilling on private land.
Now, I'm not 100% against energy exploration here in my state. It goes without saying that there are serious potential dangers to fracking, as were illustrated in the excellent 2010 film Gasland, but these are the least of my concerns when it comes to NC.
My concerns are with the absolute lack of objective or responsible oversight by our state government. The same people that admitted to knowing about the existential pollution risks to the Dan River, then absolved their former employer of responsibility for one of the most devastating environmental disasters in NC history by placing the cleanup costs squarely on the back of the taxpayer- these are the people that are going to be responsible for overseeing energy companies that have been proven to be utterly negligent without responsible oversight.
It isn't the drills in the ground, but the shills in Raleigh that pose to our beautiful state the most serious of threats. The runaway train of our legislature is reaching terminal velocity with an increasingly brazen oligarchic set of policies, and it's undeniable that the welfare of North Carolina and her citizens is not the General Assembly's priority.
Below the Belt is a sandbox blog for writing about Southern politics, with a initial focus on the radical political happenings in the Carolinas. As always, thank you for reading.