MountainTrue Raleigh Report – February 22, 2016

Welcome back to MountainTrue’s Raleigh Report. We are just one month away from North Carolina’s primary and just about two months away from the state legislature’s 2016 session, so it’s time to get back to it. In this edition, we’ll catch you up on recent happenings in Raleigh, take a look at WNC primary races and look forward to session.

But first-

It’s the MountainTrue 2016 Political Season Webinar – Free Lunch Edition

Wednesday, February 24, 12-12:45 pm.
From WNC legislative races all the way to the Governor’s Mansion, with a stop at the General Assembly along the way, MountainTrue’s legislative guru Rob Lamme gets you caught up on what’s happening in Raleigh, what to look for during the March primary season and what the legislature has in store for us during the upcoming legislative session. And of course we’ll also discuss MountainTrue’s strategies for protecting the places we share.  RSVP today and you’ll be entered to win one of four free lunches at a restaurant in Asheville, as thanks for spending this lunchtime with us.

March 15 Primaries

There’s a big election coming up – with the White House, the Governor’s Mansion and a Senate seat on the line. WNC also has some of the hottest legislative races in the state. State Sen. Tom Apodaca (Henderson, Buncombe, Translyvania counties), Sen. Dan Soucek (Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Watauga) and Rep. Roger West (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon) are not running for re-election, prompting serious races for these open seats. Rep. John Ager (Buncombe) could face a very competitive race in November, as could Rep. Joe Sam Queen (Haywood, Jackson, Swain). Make sure you vote in the primaries and ask the candidates about their positions on important environmental issues.

Redistricting Craziness

You’ve probably heard that the U.S. Supreme Court threw out North Carolina’s congressional maps, ruling that two districts – the 1st Congressional District and the 12th Congressional District – were gerrymandered along racial lines. The ruling has thrown our elections into uncertainty, and the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had added to the chaos. On Saturday, the Supreme Court declined to intervene in a lower court ruling that invalidates congressional redistricting maps.

Environmental Quick Hits

Cleaning Up Cliffside: DEQ finally released the long-awaited draft priority classifications for state’s 14 coal ash dumpsites, but the coal ash dumps at Cliffside in Rutherford and Cleveland Counties were not recommended for complete cleanup. That decision leaves the surrounding communities and all those downstream at risk from toxic pollution. Call on DEQ to rank the Cliffside coal ash dumps based on the real risk they pose to public health, safety and the environment and attend the March 14th hearings in Rutherford and Cleveland counties.

DEQ Secretary Makes Waves: Secretary of Environmental Quality Donald van der Vaart raised eyebrows when he suggested at the Energy Policy Committee that state permits should be required for solar farms and that nuclear energy should be included as part of the state’s clean energy standard.

Coal Ash Drama Continues: State environmental regulators have fined Duke Energy more than $6.6 million for a coal ash spill that fouled 70 miles of the Dan River two years ago. The closing of the state’s coal ash ponds has been thrown into disarray by a N.C. Supreme Court ruling that the legislature exceeded its powers in creating the Coal Ash Management Commission.

More Supreme Court: The U.S. Supreme Court recently voted to delay implementation of the Clean Power Plan. The McCrory administration and DEQ were in favor of this delay. A lower court will hear objections to the law in June.

Coming Soon… The 2016 Legislature!

The General Assembly’s short session begins April 25th, and it will be here before you know it. All indications are that legislative leaders want this session to actually be short, but we will believe it when we see it. Here’s a good preview from Rep. Chuck McGrady.

The legislature’s biggest job will be approval of a revised 2016-2017 state budget. Look for conservation groups to protect increased funding won last year, anti-tax groups to push for expanding sales taxes and eliminate the capital stock tax and education advocates to ask for increased teacher pay.

Again this session, MountainTrue will be taking the mountain to Raleigh to meet with our legislators about important WNC issues. We usually leave the day before and start meetings bright and early the next morning. Sign up today and join us to make your voice heard!


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.