Um, no indeed

Now why would the state’s Secretary of DHHS blame this on the Insurance Commissioner? Because it is unpopular? Because he’s a Democrat? Because his title has the word insurance in it?

From this morning’s Under the Dome via a story in NC Health News

When challenged by a doctor on the decision not to expand the government health insurance to about 500,000 working-class people, Wos said state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin made the decision.

Um, no.

That decision came from the legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory, who hired Wos.

For the record, the Department of Insurance backed Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

NC Health News — Wos Says Decision to Not Expand Medicaid Was Goodwin’s Call

I have so been waiting for this submerged lands bill

Anyone who tuned in to the legislature post-election and pre-session got a chance to catch up on the history of water policy in North Carolina. Some absolutely fascinating history and legal aspects — lots of common law stuff. One of the very interesting things discussed was that the state owns the land under its rivers and other public waters. Due to some recent case law, it was decided that the state probably ought to document that. (Correct me if I’m wrong on that submerged lands experts.)
Senate Bill 345 Statewide Submerged Lands Survey Main Page
So, I guess as one of those people who wondered what would come of those discussions from last winter, this is the bill I’ve most anticipated. It sounds strange, but could turn out to be a pretty big deal.

Short Title:        Statewide Submerged Lands Inventory. (Public)
Sponsors: Senator Hartsell (Primary Sponsor).
Referred to:  



AN ACT to improve the oversight and management of state‑owned submerged lands, including initiating a process to inventory claims on state‑owned submerged lands.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

SECTION 1. The Department of Administration shall modify the existing State property database to include a field to indicate whether or not an item within the database includes submerged land. The Department of Administration shall modify the database no later than April 15, 2014, and shall report to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations on the completion of the modification no later than that date.

SECTION 2. No structures may be placed on State‑owned submerged lands after the effective date of this act without an easement granted by the Department of Administration. The Department of Administration shall record such easements, if granted, within the State property database using the database field required to be added by Section 1 of this act. This section should not be construed to validate or authorize the presence of any existing structures on State‑owned submerged lands.

SECTION 3. The Department of Administration shall adopt rules specifying the process for how to obtain utility easements on submerged lands, including any fees. The Department shall adopt rules no later than April 15, 2014, and shall report to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations on the new rules no later than that date.

SECTION 4. The Department of Administration shall develop and implement procedures with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for implementing G.S. 146‑8, which relates to the disposition of mineral deposits in State lands under water. The Department of Administration and Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall implement these procedures no later than April 15, 2014, and shall report to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations on the implementation status no later than that date.

SECTION 5.(a) Article 4 of Subchapter I of Chapter 146 of the General Statutes is amended by adding the following new section:

§ 146‑20.2.  Non‑coastal submerged lands inventory.

(a) Inventory Process. — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources, in conjunction with the Department of Administration and the Office of the Attorney General, shall inventory all State‑owned submerged lands in non‑coastal counties and shall determine the validity of the claims submitted under this section. In evaluating claims registered pursuant to this section, the Division shall favor public ownership of submerged lands and public trust rights. The provisions of this section shall not apply to the land lying under any private fish pond, irrigation pond, or other waterway not owned by the State.

(b) Claims Submission. — Every person claiming any interest in any part of the bed lying under navigable waters of any non‑coastal county of North Carolina or any right of fishery in navigable waters of any non‑coastal county superior to that of the general public shall register the grant, charter, or other authorization under which the person claims with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources. Such registration shall be accompanied by a survey of the claimed area, meeting criteria established by the Division. Registering any claim with the Division in no way implies recognition by the State of the validity of the claim.

(c) Notice by Publication. — The Division shall give notice of the claims process under this section at least once each calendar year for three years by publication in a newspaper or newspapers of general circulation throughout all non‑coastal counties of the State.

(d) Unfiled Claims Void. — All rights and titles not registered in accordance with this subsection on or before December 31, 2015, are hereby declared null and void.

(e) Annual Report. — On or before September 1 of each year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources, shall report to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations on the following:

(1) The total number of new claims registered.

(2) The number of claims registered that were resolved during the preceding year.

(3) The cost of resolving the claims that were resolved during the preceding year.

(4) The number of unresolved claims.

(5) The projected completion date of the inventory process.

(f) Definition. — For the purpose of this subsection, “non‑coastal county” shall mean all the counties not included in the definition of “coastal counties” in G.S. 113‑205(a).

SECTION 5.(b) The sum of three hundred twenty‑eight thousand dollars ($328,000) is appropriated from the General Fund to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources, for fiscal year 2013‑2014 for the personnel and other expenses associated with inventorying State‑owned submerged lands under G.S. 146‑20.2, as enacted by this section. Three new positions are authorized, to be paid from these funds: one attorney, one paralegal, and one administrative assistant.

The sum of five hundred fifty thousand dollars ($550,000) is appropriated from the General Fund to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources, for fiscal year 2014‑2015, recurring, for the personnel and other expenses associated with inventorying State‑owned submerged lands under G.S. 146‑20.2, as enacted by this section. In addition to the three positions authorized for fiscal year 2013‑2014, the following new positions are authorized effective for fiscal year 2014‑2015, to be paid from these funds: three paralegals and one geographic information system (GIS) specialist.

SECTION 6. Section 5(b) of this act becomes effective July 1, 2013. The remainder of this act is effective when it becomes law.

A lecture on science at the NC legislature

A rather interesting lecture today at the legislature by John Droz, who has figured prominently in the state’s debate over sea-level rise standards.

Some takeaways: Apparently, many of our state’s scientists are actually anti-science and environmentalists are accepting their ideas in cult-like manner. Or something. (Update: here’s the link to a larger version of the slideshow, entitled Science Under Assault.)

There’s a breathtaking amount of irony in this presentation. Pretty sure this story will be making the rounds of various science blogs in short order.

You can watch some of the presentation and decide for yourselves. BTW, this will totally thrill those of you who enjoy watching someone read you a 150 or so slide Power Point presentation.

WRAL – Lawmakers hear from climate change skeptic

Climate change is real

Prediction for Raleigh via Wunderground''s Climate Change page

Nice to hear someone running for president say it out loud.

No one with any sense is arguing that it is not real, although this year during the sea level rise debate several North Carolina legislators enjoyed waving around copies of a copy of Newsweek from the 70s that featured a teasing headline about a new ice age (guess if it’s a headline it must be a scientific consensus, right?).

The fight, unfortunately, is whether humans have anything to do with it. It should not be a big fight, but it serves entrenched and wealthy interests and so it is. Science be damned for profits. That provides the financial fuel to support the opposition, which has made denial a cottage industry for activists and a dependable source of campaign cash for politicians willing to take the right positions.
Here in North Carolina, the climate change conflict has a twist. The question isn’t whether humans are causing change, but whether we should do anything about it.

During our legislature’s debate on the subject, we saw people in opposition to new policies who probably do understand that climate change is real and man-made. But pushed by deep-pocket coastal development interests they’re determined to fight it from becoming a basis for public policy as long as possible.

While that’s damaging enough, the way they’ve gone about it has made it worse. Rather than appeal to pragmatism and cautioning against a too-fast approach in the remedies, they’re cynically using deniers to push their point. They’ve chosen to fight the science and not the policy.

The battle in North Carolina is not just about the coast. As the chart above for Raleigh and for places in the mountains and Sandhills show, climate change will affect the whole state. We may not be able to understand the effects as well as we can understand the fact that the sea will rise, but a rapid rise in temps will impact our lives and all living things around us. There are many choices ahead in what to do, but the only one sure to hurt us is nothing.

In this election, people need to know where those who want to represent them stand on this issue and whether they believe in basing policy on science at all.

Coastal Review – Sea Level Rise and Public Policy series
Wunderground – Climate Change Main Page
Wunderground Climate Change Predictions (graph) for Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Cape Hatteras

The NC trend is less Democrats, more reliable Democratic voters

Registration numbers have been a focus of late, especially in the battleground states.
I can’t speak for how the numbers work in other states, but I do know that if you think that lower numbers of Democrats in North Carolina mean less Democratic votes, you’d be wrong.
The quirky trend of the Old North State for the past two decades or so is that the people migrating here tend to be more reliable Democratic voters than the natives. There was a very good Public Policy Polling study of this in 2008 and what they found holds today. It’s also likely accelerating. The most recent PPP look at the presidential race has the president leading his challenger by a huge margin among the people who have been here ten years or less.

From this month’s Exile on Jones Street Column in the Indy, which came out this week:

Following the rout of 2010, GOP strategists maintained that Obama’s win in North Carolina was an anomaly driven by unusually high turnout. They pointed to a drop in Democratic registrations.

But as the PPP study points out, the people moving here, even independents, are proving to be more reliable Democratic voters than the natives. Born and bred Tar Heels came of age in what was historically a one-party state; if you wanted a say in legislative or county commissioner races, you registered as a Democrat so you could vote in the primary.

That same dynamic identified in 2008 is at play this year. The recent PPP poll on the presidential race notes that Obama and Romney are tied 47-47 for the native vote. The president’s lead can be attributed to an edge among non-native voters, including a 66-to-27-percent lead among those who’ve been here less than 10 years.

There’s a lot of things to note in the registration outlook and the demographic changes, but one that gets little mention is that all the recruiting the state is doing and the new jobs coming to the state – our rapid growth over the past 30 years – is starting to have a real impact on out politics.

Reuters says fracking land rush coming to an end

If you’re interested in the fracking issue, especially the big currents that drive it, there’s been no better source for insights than Reuters, which has exposed the land speculation, shady finances and inner dealings of some of the industry’s biggest players.
This latest analysis, based on the series, says the big energy-driven land rush is over.

With little evidence that its competitors are taking on the role of leading industry lease-buyer, Chesapeake’s new found frugality is expected to usher in a more sedate period of U.S. land buying, and a sizeable cultural shift for an industry that has been acquiring new acreage at almost any cost.

A surge in drilling into rich shale-gas seams from Pennsylvania to Texas has pushed natural gas prices to 10-year lows, forcing producers, including Chesapeake, to cut output and put the brakes on new wells.

In a practical sense, what that means for North Carolina is less frenzy, which is a good thing. It does not mean land speculation isn’t going to happen, but there’s less cash sloshing about and, because of prices, less economic incentive to open up new areas.

Reuters also is keeping up its investigative work on possible collusion on purchases between Chesapeake and Encana in Michigan.

As Chesapeake Energy Corp and Encana Corp face antitrust investigations, emails reviewed by Reuters indicate that top executives of the two rivals shared sensitive information that gave Chesapeake the upper hand in deals with Michigan land owners.

New sea level rise legislation

Update: Last night, the North Carolina Senate approved H819 40-1.
This morning after a long, spirited and often weird debate the NC House passed it 68-46.

Here’s the post from last night . . .

The final tweaks are in for H819, the much storied Study and Modify Certain Coastal Management Policies Act. The House is set to vote in the morning. The Senate is still in session. It’s 2:18 a.m.
Full bill history with links is here.
Here’s the new language mandating the sea-level rise policy. It’s mouthful:

The Coastal Resources Commission and the Division of Coastal Management of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall not define rates of sea-level change for regulatory purposes prior to July 1, 2016.

SECTION 2.(c) The Coastal Resources Commission shall direct its Science Panel to deliver its five-year updated assessment to its March 2010 report entitled “North Carolina Sea Level Rise Assessment Report” to the Commission no later than March 31, 2015. The Commission shall direct the Science Panel to include in its five-year updated assessment a comprehensive review and summary of peer-reviewed scientific literature that address the full range of global, regional, and North Carolina-specific sea-level change data and hypotheses, including sea-level fall, no movement in sea level, deceleration of sea-level rise, and acceleration of sea-level rise. When summarizing research dealing with sea level, the Commission and the Science Panel shall define the assumptions and limitations of predictive modeling used to predict future sea-level scenarios. The Commission shall make this report available to the general public and allow for submittal of public comments including a public hearing at the first regularly scheduled meeting after March 31, 2015. Prior to and upon receipt of this report, the Commission shall study the economic and environmental costs and benefits to the North Carolina coastal region of developing, or not developing, sea-level regulations and policies. The Commission shall also compare the determination of sea level based on historical calculations versus predictive models. The Commission shall also address the consideration of oceanfront and estuarine shorelines for dealing with sea-level assessment and not use one single sea-level rate for the entire coast. For oceanfront shorelines, the Commission shall use no fewer than the four regions defined in the April 2011 report entitled “North Carolina Beach and Inlet Management Plan” published by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In regions that may lack statistically significant data, rates from adjacent regions may be considered and modified using generally accepted scientific and statistical techniques to account for relevant geologic and hydrologic processes. The Commission shall present a draft of this report, which shall also include the Commission’s Science Panel five-year assessment update, to the general public and receive comments from interested parties no later than December 31, 2015, and present these reports, including public comments and any policies the Commission has adopted or may be considering that address sea-level policies, to the General Assembly Environmental Review Commission no later than March 1, 2016.

Awaiting reaction from our state’s esteemed science community.

Mining and energy board appointments an interesting mix

The usual end-of-session appointments bill has a long list of folks Speaker Thom Tillis wants to see sitting on various boards, including the new Mining and Energy Commission, which is not quite law yet.
One of the new members, Charles Holbrook seems to have a problem with the idea of man-made climate change and a lot of opinions on other matters. Another, Ray Covington owns a ton of land in the shale gas region and has a company that’s been working with landowners on lease deals. I just talked to one informed observer who wondered how the guy could ever vote on anything fracking related given his conflicts.
Oh, and nominee Christopher J. Ayers is a lawyer who represents the energy industry.

Google away.

SECTION 1.29.(b)  If Senate Bill 820, 2012 Regular Session, becomes law and Senate Bill 810, 2012 Regular Session, does not become law, then the following shall be appointed to the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission: Charles E. Holbrook of Moore County (Seat 7) for a term expiring on June 30, 2014, Raymond T. Covington of Guilford County (Seat 4) and Christopher J. Ayers of Wake County (Seat 6) for terms expiring on June 30, 2015, and Charles Taylor of Lee County (Seat 5) for a term expiring on June 30, 2016.