How did you celebrate Earth Day last week? Did you pray to Gaia like a good hippie? Strip naked and hug a tree? Trade in that coal-rolling behemoth for a shiny new Chevy Volt? If you're like state Sen. Chad Barefoot or Ralph Hise, you spent the day bitching about the EPA and its 300 pages of dumb regulations that do dumb things like keep the air clean.
"We have reached a point in this nation where the EPA HAS APPROACHED THE RIDICULOUS," said Hise, whose district stretches from South Carolina to Tennessee in the western part of the state. "We have a federal government that wakes up and decides 'we need to control that."'
The "ridiculous," in this case, is an update to an EPA rule regulating the emissions of wood-burning stoves and heaters—something the EPA'S JACKBOOTED THUGS have done since 1988 by requiring manufacturers to verify that their heaters emit only so many air pollutants, because they believe breathing is good. And so the brave souls of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources crafted Senate Bill 303 to combat this dreaded tyranny.
In short, the bill prevents the state from enforcing any EPA emissions regulation pertaining to wood heaters adopted after May 1, 2014, which, to hear the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources tell it, isn't all that big of a deal anyway, all the braying about Big Government aside.
"This bill is actually pretty benign," DENR assistant secretary TOM REEDER told the committee. Just because the state isn't enforcing the EPA's rules doesn't mean the feds won't. Besides, he continued, "We have the CLEANEST AIR QUALITY in North Carolina that we've had in 20 years."
"Thanks to Obama!" interjected Sen. Joel Ford, D-Mecklenburg, which earned him the side-eye from basically every Republican in the room.
"Let's try to be cordial over here," someone retorted. And with that, the bill cleared the committee on a voice vote without dissent. The Senate overwhelmingly passed it the next day.
It now heads to the House, where Republicans in the Committee on the Environment continued the EARTH WEEK FESTIVITIES by moving to gut the State Environmental Policy Act, a law that since 1971 has required a state assessment of publicly funded projects' environmental impacts. HB 795 would change SEPA so that only projects with $20 million or more in public funds or that affect 20 acres or more of public lands would need an environmental impact study.
What precipitated this change? Why, SPECIAL INTERESTS, of course.
"The Chamber wants it. Industry wants it. Developers want it," says Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, communications director for the N.C. Sierra Club. "This is developers looking to take taxpayers' money without having an assessment of the environmental impact their project will have."
Here's another GREAT MOMENT IN LEGISLATING on Jones Street.
Last Tuesday, hundreds of women descended upon the Legislature for something called WOMEN'S ADVOCACY DAY, at which there was a press conference where women state reps talked up House Bill 166, which would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
A quick civics lesson: The ERA—first proposed in Congress in 1923 but still considered controversial for reasons that surpass understanding—would guarantee women all the same rights as PENIS-HAVING AMERICANS. The amendment was ratified by 35 states as of its 1982 deadline, three short of the required 38. Backers say that if just three more states approve the ERA, and if Congress passes a bill to accept those belated ratifications, the ERA will be enshrined in the Constitution, hooray!
HB 166 may have 32 co-sponsors, but that doesn't mean the dude-dominated Republican majority will give it the time of day. Instead they've focused on telling women what to do with their UTERUSES, which is much more important. The premise behind HB 465, which passed the House last week, is that women get abortions on a whim, and maybe if they just have a nice, long think, they'll make better decisions. Thus, the not-at-all patronizing bill would extend the mandatory waiting period from 24 hours to 72, during which time the little ladies can mull over their doctors' STATE-MANDATED LECTURE on abortion alternatives.
HB 465 easily passed the House last week. The ERA bill hasn't gotten so much as a committee hearing, because priorities.
Good news: The state Senate (finally) backed down on its threat to overrule the city of Raleigh's deal to buy DOROTHEA DIX PARK. The agreement, negotiated by Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Gov. Pat McCrory, the property would free up the city to build a much-hyped destination park. The state, meanwhile, would lease 109 of the 308 acres back from the city for the Department of Health and Human Services' offices, and proceeds from the $52 MILLION SALE would go toward state mental-health programs.
The deal must still be approved by the N.C. COUNCIL OF STATE, a 10-member body headed by McCrory. It's expected to vote on the Dix purchase May 5. With Democrats controlling a majority of that council, and with Senate Republicans no longer whining about how we need to pawn this property off on the highest bidder to do God knows what, passage seems like a foregone conclusion.
After that, the city's going to have to conjure the $52 million. That likely means a PROPERTY TAX INCREASE. The city will have to figure it out by year's end.
Are you among the poor bastards who've gotten an ill-deserved $20 ticket for parking on Glenwood South, where the signs are confusing as hell and the rules are stupid and weird? You're in luck. Since Glenwood is the worst downtown district for businesses—seriously, 32 have closed since 2011—the city is doing its part to make it suck less for business owners and the pedestrians who frequent Glenwood South's shops, bars and restaurants.
Last week, the City Council voted to allow parking at all times along Glenwood Avenue and Tucker Street. (Previously, parking wasn't allowed during peak commuting times.)The city hopes the change will slow down traffic and make the street safer for pedestrians, who will then spend more money.
City staffers warned that the change will make driving on Glenwood South— already a fucking nightmare—worse. But the city wants to emphasize walkability in its urban core, so drivers will just have to slow down and wait it out.
This article appeared in print with the headline "How not to celebrate Earth Week"