Public Lands are Priceless, not Worthless

Public Lands are Priceless, not Worthless


Public Lands are Priceless, not Worthless

 

America’s public lands are a sacred legacy for us all, but Congress is well on its way to changing that. On Congress’ first day in session, the House approved a package of rules in House Resolution 5 that sets a zero-dollar value on federally protected lands that are transferred to states. By devaluing federal lands, Congress is paving the way to hand them over to states that cannot afford to manage these lands and will likely seek to raise funds by selling off our national treasures to developers or to mining, fracking and logging industries.

All three WNC lawmakers voted yes on this bill, now they need to hear from you that they’ve made a huge mistake: America’s public lands are priceless, not worthless, and need to be protected for all to enjoy and experience!!

Call your representatives NOW, using the script below, and click here to let us know you made that call!

Rep. Virginia Foxx, 5th District (Ashe, Catawba, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Iredell, Rowan, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin): 202-225-2071

Rep. Mark Meadows, 11th District (Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, Jackson, Macon, Clay, Cherokee, Graham, Swain, Haywood, Madison, Yancey, McDowell, Polk): 202-225-6401

Rep. Patrick McHenry, 10th District (Cleveland, Rutherford, Catawba, Lincoln, Burke, Caldwell, Mitchell, Avery): 202-225-2576

Sen. Richard Burr202-224-3154

Sen. Thom Tillis: 202-224-6342

**Click here if you’re not sure who represents you

WHEN YOU CALL:

Ask for the staff person in charge of public lands (if there isn’t one, it’s OK, just ask their name and continue)

Introduce yourself, make it personal (“I’m a mom, a teacher, a retiree, a business owner”) and give them your zip code, whether they ask for it or not.

Sample script (make it your own! The more personal the better!):

“One of the things I love most about living in Western North Carolina is access to high quality, federally protected public lands. The Pisgah and Nantahala Forests, and all our public lands are a sacred legacy that need to be protected for all Americans and future generations. Representative/Senator [insert name]’s affirmative vote on House Resolution 5 endangers that legacy by paving the way to hand over control of these lands to the States.

States don’t have the funding and resources to protect and manage these lands, for example the expense of managing wildfires alone would break state budgets. Tracts of land or rights will be sold off to private developers and industry just to raise the money to manage lands. Our national parks and forests are priceless, not worthless, as the [Rep./Senator] seems to believe by voting ‘Yes’ on HR 5, and they’ve made a huge mistake that will transfer these national treasures from American taxpayers to private companies at no benefit to taxpayers.

President Trump has reiterated his campaign promise to not transfer public lands to states, he needs to keep that promise and Congress needs to stand with the American people. Keep all federal lands under federal management. Protect our natural legacy.”


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

It’s time to clean up CTS!

It’s time to clean up CTS!

For years MountainTrue has worked in partnership with our community to achieve clean up of toxic pollution at the CTS of Asheville site. Now, EPA has finally developed a clean-up plan for the site, and we need your help to make sure it gets implemented as thoroughly and quickly as possible.
Join us in supporting this long-awaited plan to clean up CTS’s pollution, which has threatened the health and wellbeing of neighbors for decades!


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

No lame duck forest protection roll backs!

No lame duck forest protection roll backs!

Wildfires are on our minds as over 50,000 acres of forest have burned in Western North Carolina. This is a reminder that fire management is an essential function of the U.S. Forest Service, which will have to spend increasingly more of its budget to fight larger, more dangerous fires due to a warming and drying climate. Congressional action is needed to fix to the Forest Service budget, ensuring dedicated firefighting budget. Unfortunately, efforts underway to provide such funding in the Western United States may come with damaging—and unnecessary—strings attached: the dismantling of key environmental protections for all national forests, including our Southeastern forests. Bills that would remove important protections for Southeastern forests are primed to be added into unrelated legislation when Congress returns, post-election, for its lame duck session.

Tell your representatives that any wildfire bill should be a clean funding fix, focusing solely on wildfire suppression and prevention where needed, not broadly dismantling forest protections.

Tell DEQ to Stop Duke’s Water Pollution at Cliffside

Tell DEQ to Stop Duke’s Water Pollution at Cliffside

Tell DEQ to Stop Duke’s Water Pollution at Cliffside

Click here to Send your letter NOW telling DEQ to withdraw the proposed Cliffside wastewater permit and amend it to adequately protect water quality in the Broad River.

It seems like the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) just can’t get it right when it comes to getting Duke Energy fix their polluting coal ash dumps.  Time and time again we see the agency fall short of making the progress needed to protect our waterways and communities and the new draft wastewater discharge permit for the Rogers Energy Complex (a.k.a. Cliffside power plant) in Rutherford and Cleveland Counties is no different.

 

For years the coal ash dumps at Cliffside have contaminated groundwater and waterways with toxic heavy metals and constituents like arsenic, chromium, cadmium and others, threatening nearby residents and who overwhelmingly spoke out demanding a full clean up of the site in March of this year.

Instead of responding to locals’ call with definitive action and requiring Duke to stop toxic discharges to public waters, DEQ has fallen short of its duty…again. The draft wastewater permit converts existing streams into Duke’s own wastewater channels, papers over illegal discharges by attempting to permit them, fails to define limits for how much toxic heavy metals can flow into the Broad River, purports to waive water quality standards in a 12-mile mixing zone for some discharges and misses other opportunities to require Duke to clean up their mess. 

This is unacceptable. Our state should protect people, not polluters, and MountainTrue is encouraging all community members to speak out against DEQ’s proposed permit. Attend the public hearing on November 10 and submit your written comments online telling DEQ to withdraw the proposed permit and amend it to adequately protect water quality in the Broad River. Please don’t forget to share with your friends and family.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Raleigh Report, Issue 21: Hallelujah, That Session Is Over

MountainTrue Raleigh Report, Issue 21: Hallelujah, That Session Is Over

MountainTrue Raleigh Report, Issue 21: Hallelujah, That Session Is Over

Sine die (adverb). Definition: with reference to business or proceedings that have been adjourned with no appointed date for resumption, as in “On Friday, July 2, the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned sine die.”

In this edition of the MountainTrue Raleigh Report – It’s OVER! On Friday, legislators adjourned the short session sine die and headed back home – just in time for the Fourth of July holiday.

Up until the very end of session, there were a number of important bills still up in the air. Some good things happened and some bad things didn’t. Here’s the rundown on the end of session – and our overall take on what The Honorables did and didn’t do this year.

Coal Ash Rests With McCrory


If you remember, Chuck McGrady’s (and others’) coal ash legislation met with the veto stamp earlier this session. A veto override seemed likely, but the Senate stepped in and forged a “compromise” with Governor McCrory.

The new bill eliminates the state’s Coal Ash Commission and requires Duke Energy to provide drinking water either through water lines or filtration systems to residents within a half-mile of the coal ash pits. DEQ will also assess how far contaminants from the coal ash ponds have traveled in groundwater and could be required to take further measures for clean water.

Under the bill, once Duke Energy has provided the water lines or filtration systems to local residents and can certify that it has fixed leaks or problems with dams at a coal ash site, DEQ is required to classify the site as low risk. That designation could allow Duke to cap the site and leave the coal ash in place in unlined basins for the foreseeable future.

MountainTrue and a number of other environmental organizations – as well as Rep. McGrady – opposed this legislation. In our view, this latest coal ash bill guts the criteria the state uses to determine how dangerous the coal ash pits are to surrounding communities.  Unless something changes, the result will be that coal ash pits will continue to pollute our groundwater as well as our rivers and streams.

The bill is now awaiting action by the governor, who seems all but certain to sign it.

Crunching the Budget Numbers

There is plenty of good and bad in the new, $22.34 billion budget. You can read overview stories like this one from WRAL for a sense of the big-ticket items. Here are some provisions of special interest to us:

  • DuPont Recreational Forest receives $3 million in funding for new restroom and parking facilities, as well as a provision that would allow the forest to compete with other parks projects in the annual round of grants from the state’s Parks and Recreational Trust Fund. New staffing positions are also created to help oversee DuPont’s management.

  • The budget restores funding and positions for the Natural Heritage Program, which was reduced by $314,726 in 2015. The revised net appropriation for the program is $764,726.

  • An $8.6M increase for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund is included, bringing the total appropriation for FY16-17 to $22.4 million. That is the single largest appropriation to the CWMTF since 2010.

  • The Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust is increased by $1 million.

  • Funding for the Parks & Recreation Trust Fund was maintained, bringing the total appropriation for FY16-17 to $22.7 million.

  • A provision to repeal stream buffer rules, endangering water and habitat, was largely eliminated, but clean up rules for Jordan and Falls lakes in the Triangle were delayed even further.

Things Left On the Table

The two regulatory reform bills – S303 and H593 – died when session ended. That’s good news for those of us who care about the environment.

Some of the items of concern in these bills included:

  • A prohibition on the state Environmental Management Commission (EMC) and Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from enforcing air emissions standards that regulate fuel combustion that “directly or indirectly” provides hot water or heating to a residence, or heating to a business.

  • Requiring the EMC to achieve a 3/5 majority to adopt federal new source performance standards (NSPS), maximum achievable control technology (MACT), or hazardous air pollutant standards; and disallows state enforcement of federal standards until the EMC adopts them.

  • Prohibiting stormwater control measures, exempting landscaping material from stormwater management requirements and amending stream mitigation requirements.

H3, the Omnibus Constitutional Amendments bill, was also left on the table as session ended. The bill proposed three constitutional amendments for the November ballot. The amendments concerned eminent domain; the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife; and capping the state’s personal income tax at 5.5 percent (the current cap is 10 percent). Look for the cap on income tax to be a major issue during the 2017 session.

Post Mortem

Judging the 2016 legislative session and its impact on the environment does not lead to clear-cut generalizations.

On the plus side, the state budget makes important – and substantial – new investments in open space preservation, both statewide (with a large bump in funding for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund) and in western North Carolina (DuPont State Forest).

On the downside, the budget also includes rollbacks on clean water provisions for two of the state’s largest drinking water sources – Jordan and Falls lakes. Here again, however, things could have been much worse, as the original language in the Senate budget would have repealed protections in a number of other river basins. Thankfully, those protections were left in place.

Lawmakers also get high marks (of a sort) for what they didn’t do. A political meltdown that occurred at the end of session meant that two regulatory “reform” bills died when the Senate abruptly ended the session before they could be approved – taking a number of bad policies down at the same time.

Still, it’s hard to give the legislature good grades on anything in light of what it did on coal ash. The revised legislation seriously weakens the protections approved just two years ago.  Perhaps most appalling, the new law allows DEQ to reclassify coal pits all over North Carolina and likely allows Duke Energy to leave the coal ash in place – in unlined pits – instead of moving it to safer, lined facilities.

Overall, we have to give the legislature low to middling grades – at best – this year when it comes to protecting our water, our air and our open space.

That’s probably enough about the General Assembly for now. In future updates, we’ll let you know about some upcoming meetings with legislators we are planning in WNC. And we’ll have news about our plans for the 2017 legislature, which begins in January.  In the meantime, enjoy the summer and the knowledge that the legislature is out of session and can’t do any more damage for the rest of the year.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Bad Coal Ash Bill Being Rushed Through Raleigh

Bad Coal Ash Bill Being Rushed Through Raleigh

Bad Coal Ash Bill Being Rushed Through Raleigh

On the evening of Tuesday, June 28 the North Carolina Senate rushed through a rewrite to H630, the state’s coal ash cleanup law. This bad coal ash bill is quickly making its way through the legislature and we expect the House to take it up as soon as today.

Please call your NC Representative Immediately and ask them to NOT CONCUR with the Senate’s version of House Bill 630. 

Official statement by MountainTrue Co-director Julie Mayfield:

“The legislature’s rewrite of the state’s coal ash cleanup law is a betrayal of the people of North Carolina. The General Assembly has abdicated its responsibility to clean up North Carolina’s coal ash and protect us from the ill effects of toxic pollutants.

“HB630 would disband the Coal Ash Management Commission and with it any effective oversight of the Department of Environmental Quality, which has a poor record of protecting our communities and our environment. Worse, this new legislation delays final classification for North Carolina’s coal ash pits and completely guts the criteria the state uses to determine the threat of these pits to our communities. The result will leave coal ash in place to continue polluting groundwater, our rivers and our streams.

“The strength of the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 (CAMA) was that it used science to guide the coal ash cleanup effort. That science indicated that there are no low priority coal ash sites or low priority communities. Now the legislature wants to scrap the  protections that are based on that science – protections lawmakers themselves have repeatedly touted as ‘the best in the country.’ The legislature’s willingness to weaken laws that protect so many people from such harmful pollution is both bewildering and shameful.”

Read the full text of H630.

H630, as passed by the Senate, would:

  • eliminate the Coal Ash Management Commission and, with it, legislative oversight over the NC Department of Environmental Quality, a deeply politicized agency with a poor track record;
  • eliminate criteria for risk assessment based on a site’s threats to public health, safety, welfare, the environment and natural resources;
  • give Duke two years, until October 15, 2018, to provide clean drinking water to affected households through a water line or filtration device;
  • require that DEQ classify ponds as “low risk” if dams are repaired and public water supply hookups are provided, regardless of whether they continue to pollute ground and surface waters;
  • allow the DEQ to revise and downgrade their classifications of coal ash pits for 18 months, until November 15, 2018;
  • delay closure plans for low and intermediate sites until December 31, 2019; and
  • give DEQ expanded authority to grant variances and extensions to the deadlines above, creating further delay and less accountability for Duke Energy.

The time to act is NOW. Call your representative and tell them that no North Carolina community is a low priority. Tell them to oppose H630.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.