North Carolina’s Climate Change Views Are Irrational, Too
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I recently wrote about Wyoming being a really misguided state, but it seems that North Carolina is in the running as well. A bill backed by the GOP is planning to criminalize public disclosure of fracking chemicals, making it a felony to do so. With its thinly-veiled attempt at suggesting its sole purpose was protection of trade secrets, North Carolina reared its true ugly head and is showing the rest of the country how not to treat serious issues about pollution and our climate.
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a technology that appears to be an unstoppable force, as more and more states are jumping on the “get rich with natural gas” bandwagon. States like New York and California, for instance, are currently debating whether or not to allow fracking, with both industry representatives and environmentalists vociferously speaking out for and against the practice. Fracking is not yet allowed in North Carolina, but why wouldn’t the state want to be as open with its citizens as it can be in this controversial subject?
Too Close For Comfort
Already faced with a similar chemical disclosure bill in 2013 that would have required fracking companies to list their fluid ingredients, North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) Chairman Jim Womack admitted to delaying the vote for further review after speaking with a Halliburton executive. Halliburton is a huge oil and gas conglomerate that has a lot at stake in the fracking world, and the commission appears to be too closely aligned with it. MEC Commissioner Vikram Rao was a Halliburton employee for 30 years, and Commissioner George Howard received nearly $50,000 in campaign contributions over two years from fracking groups.
After speaking with Halliburton, Womack seems convinced that fracking is safe and fails to see any likelihood of ground contamination from it. Adding to the list of incredible environmental quotes, he stated,
You’re more likely to have a meteorite fall from the sky and hit you on the head than you are to contaminate groundwater with fracking fluid percolating up from under the ground.
Current Safety Attempts Fall Short
Fracking rules are currently being written up by the Mining & Energy Commission. They are being praised as strongly written with some of the strictest guidelines in the country. The final regulations being proposed by three Republican senators, the Energy Modernization Act, may very well weaken the core directives. The commission was ready to implement the new set of rules in May, but Halliburton again chimed in to complain, hence the delay and likelihood of rule changes.
These new rules would make public safety officials, firefighters, EMTs, and doctors prone to a felony offense should they disclose to anyone the ingredients contained in fracking liquids. Huffington Post reports,
The three Republican state senators that proposed the bill have close ties to the oil and gas industry and industry lobbyists McguireWoods. McGuireWoods, a lobbying firm that represents Halliburton, Koch Industries, and other oil and gas interests, donated to all three senators.
Though a state geologist would be given confidential information about fracking fluids, which can and will be sent to public safety workers, this becomes a slippery slope for people who are tasked with helping others. If an EMT has a seriously ill person being rushed to the hospital, does he fear for job security and refuse to tell a nurse or family member what type of toxins the patient may have been exposed to? From a fracking company’s standpoint, trade secrets and company business practices should be guarded from unreasonable disclosure, such as leaking information online, placing it on billboards for public view, or divulging it to newspapers or TV stations. However, to have a felony hanging over the heads of innocent people just trying to do their jobs sets a dangerous precedent.
You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours
Recent complaints from environmentalists declare that Governor Pat McCrory (R), a former Duke Energy employee for nearly 30 years, isn’t doing enough to help the state’s climate issues, and is in fact helping energy companies get rules implemented to favor them. People in the state who advocate for climate activism aren’t fooled by the government’s chicanery.
Prior to Duke Energy spilling 80,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River, the state’s government blocked three lawsuits that attempted to have the energy company clean up its coal ash pits in North Carolina. McCrory still holds stock in Duke via his 401(k), and unsurprisingly, Duke has been a major contributor to McCrory’s political campaigns. After the spill, McCrory became defensive to distance himself from his prior (and current) energy interests. Raleigh television station WRAL reports,
Another reporter asked the governor whether his ownership of Duke Energy stock creates a conflict or the appearance of a conflict of interest for him.
‘In my 14 years as mayor of Charlotte and my one year as governor, I separate my job as governor, and I’m very proud of the job we’ve done as governor, and that regards to any company in North Carolina,’ McCrory answered. When a reporter attempted to follow up, McCrory shouted him down. ‘Excuse me, sir! Excuse me, sir! You have not been recognized!’
What This Means
A business that has worked for years to establish itself as an industry leader has every right to hold back certain information, thus keeping its employees working, its competitors at bay, and itself viable. To sidle up to government officials and people of influence for the sole purpose of keeping your profit margins high while risking people’s lives is another story. If there was a modicum of truth from their own lips in what they were doing, the chances of having a more forgiving public would be much higher. Back door meetings, cover-ups, and contributions to politically-connected parties simply end up reeking of greed and an ill-guided moral compass.
Therefore, North Carolina, you are no better than Wyoming and have set yourself up for the ridicule you currently, and will continue to, receive.
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