Category Archives: ENVIRONMENT
Controversial project near Elizabeth City to supply electricity for Amazon
NORTHEASTERN N.C. — As we all know, wind energy has been a highly divisive project in eastern North Carolina. The citizens of Perquimans County have fought vehemently against the construction of wind energy facilities and have sought to deny developers the conditional use permit from the county that would allow the project to go forward.
Perquimans County was in the forefront of this battle because the Amazon Wind Energy Project was to be constructed on land bordering both Pasquotank and Perquimans Counties. Chowan County was somewhat behind in its approval process because the developer, Apex Development, had filed for approvals after those of Iberdrola Renewables.
After several months of wrangling, including legal filings by multiple plaintiffs in Wake County Court, and the Office of Administrative Hearings, the plaintiffs have reached the end of this divisive process and the Amazon project has proceeded with construction.
Plaintiffs GiGiBadawi and Steve Owens had received some initial encouragement with their lawsuit, stating that the Department of Natural Resources had erred in the state agency’s determination that the project could proceed as originally submitted, even though the positions of wind turbines had been changed from the original filing.
However, when the case got into Wake County Court, the judge ruled against the plaintiffs and in favor of defendants Amazon Wind and DENR.
The basis of the lawsuit was that changes had been made, which would therefore require that the new site plan would need to be reviewed to make certain that no violations had taken place – that might be materially adverse to the plaintiffs. These plaintiffs sought to prove that wind energy was contrary to the interests of the county, which is supposed to provide for the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.
But the court failed to see the merits as sufficient to stop the project from going forward.
The plaintiffs in the meantime (while the case was going through the courts) sought to appeal to the Perquimans County planning board and to the Commissioners directly to require the developer to provide a setback for each industrial wind turbine, away from residential structures.
However, the planning board and county commissioners seem to be more interested in protecting the interests of the wind energy developer than in protecting the interests of the citizens to whom they were sworn to serve.
The result? Three candidates have filed for two of the open County Commissioner seats – that of the chairwoman and of one commissioner, neither of whom seeking reelection!
As one of these new candidates stated: “You elect people to represent you and have belief that they are looking out for your interest. But when you find that that is not the case, the only choice remaining is to seek correction and have a Board of Commissioners that is responsive to the citizens.”
In the case of Perquimans County, they had a room full of opponents that overflowed into the hallway — all of whom were distressed that the construction of Industrial Wind Energy turbines would change the nature of their ability to enjoy their property.
In fact, Ms. Badawi stated that if she and her husband had known that wind energy turbines would be constructed adjacent to their home, they would have never decided to retire to Perquimans County.
Nevertheless, the citizens lost out to a group of County Commissioners who were more interested in the revenue from this project than from any other single consideration. The same considerations as just stated were evident in the attempts by the citizens of Chowan County to stop this development from proceeding.
The Commissioners seem to be intent on proceeding with the issuance of a conditional use permit as well, but it does seem unlikely that the permit will be issued prior to the November election when several anti-wind candidates are seeking election to a number of open Commissioner Seats.
Construction of wind turbines is well underway in Pasquotank County. The commissioners there were likewise interested in the tax revenue that would be derived from the project — rather than the interests of the citizen group who opposed it.
Small town sets hearing for Aug. 8
ALLIANCE – Not quite a critic but definitely a skeptic, Louis Daniels is one elected official who wants to see all of the details about any proposed solar farm for his close knit, micro small community.
The town, which straddles Highway 55 in Pamlico County, has no zoning and few, if any, land use regulations.
Typically, local governance here is LAID BACK (with a capital L).
That would seem to make a 50-acre farm field, which lies just inside the town limits (and within easy view of the Alliance Town Hall) easy pickings for ESA Renewables, a Sanford, Fla. based solar developer.
“We don’t know jack about this,” said an exasperated Daniels on Monday night — during the town’s regularly scheduled once-per-month meeting. Later Daniels asked: “Just how much radiation will be put out if the site is destroyed by a hurricane or whatever? No one knows!”
In an e-mail sent to Alliance Mayor Frank Willis, the town’s contracted attorney said zoning is the first line of defense for a typical municipality – but in Alliance zoning is something that Daniels and his predecessors on the town board have refused to consider.
“When you say zoning,” explained Daniels, “well, we all know it takes away a lot of people’s rights.”
In a unanimous vote, the Alliance town board voted to set a public hearing for Tuesday, Aug. 8, to consider a proposed town ordinance, setting guidelines and regulations for any future solar farms.
Daniels plans to do his part to publicize the crucial public hearing.
“I intend to personally put a copy of the public notice on every door in the Town of Alliance,” he said.
Critics hope comment period can derail proposal
By Gordon Allison, Jr.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Back in 2005, Congress passed a law titled the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires blending of ethanol – a type of alcohol — into our gasoline. It doesn’t matter that ethanol is made mostly from corn, and that its production boosts corn prices and increases pollution in our waterways.
Originally, this blending of ethanol and gasoline was called “Gasohol” and it was a 10 percent blend of alcohol with 90 percent straight gas. This is now called E-10. When the RFS law was written, it assumed that America’s use of gasoline would continue to increase. However, gasoline usage has dropped steadily since the law was passed.
Now the RFS law forces more ethanol into fewer gallons of gasoline. Hence, we have E-15 which is a blend of 15 percent alcohol with 85 percent gasoline. Twenty-three states, including North Carolina, allow this biofuel to be dispensed.
What could possibly go wrong?
For example, did you know that it is ILLEGAL to use E-15 in cars made before 2001, as well as in small engines such as outboard motors, motorcycles, snowmobiles, chain saws, string weed trimmers, and leaf blowers? Those small engines, include gas-powered motors for standby emergency AC generators – a crucial part of the infrastructure for our hurricane-prone area!
Alert readers may recall that only a few years ago it was discovered that good ole E-10 ate up fiberglass fuel tanks and destroyed perfectly good marine engines.
Oh, did I mention that a gallon of E-10 biofuel has only about 80 percent of the energy of straight gasoline! Guess what? E-15 will have even less energy per gallon, so gas mileage will diminish. There is supposed to be an orange warning label on the fuel pumps when E-15 is being sold. Sometimes the label is missing or “hidden” in plain sight with all the other signage on the pumps.
Biofuels containing gasoline and ethanol have a characteristic called phase separation. This is when an alcohol-blended fuel collects water, either from the atmosphere or from water entering the fuel chain via rusted tanks or leaving fill pipes open to rain.
Alcohol has a stronger affinity to water than to gas — so it leaves the gasoline and combines with the water, settling to the bottom of the fuel tank. Since the fuel pickup is usually in the bottom of the tank, the engine gets low octane fuel, which can ruin the engine even when there is enough gasoline in the tank.
Or, with a small amount of water, the gasoline that is left has lower octane as well, which can damage the engine too.
The Environmental Protection Agency is asking for comments on the agency’s proposal (EPA-HQ-OAR-2016-0004) to increase the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply for 2017.
If adopted, these proposed levels will require the use of a record amount of ethanol, forcing higher-level fuel blends (including E-15 or 15 percent ethanol) into gas pumps and at more gas stations. It’s important to know that most marine engines are built to work only with up to 10 percent ethanol. Since most gas stations have only three grades of gas, some grade has to be dropped to accommodate the E-15 blend.
Most motorists and boat owners do not want the non-ethanol grade to be sacrificed!
A former neighbor was a petroleum engineer for Amoco. He told me that 87-octane fuel is made by taking mid-grade gasoline and adding stuff to it – in order to cut its octane rating. Mid-grade (89 to 90 octane) is pretty much as it comes out of the ground at the oil well, and high-test (91 to 93 octane) gas takes mid-grade and adds stuff to it to raise its octane rating.
So, if you want to keep your small engine-powered equipment and boat motors working for a very long time, use mid-grade, non-ethanol gas PERIOD.
Please take a few moments to send a message NOW urging the EPA to lower the ethanol mandates to 10 percent to ensure an adequate supply of fuel that will work in your boat, vehicle and airplanes (those that use automotive gasoline).
Beware! Even some cars and SUVs made in 2014 cannot use E-¬15. Contact your vehicle manufacturer to be sure your warranty isn’t voided with E-15 fuel! The deadline for your comments is July 11.
Editor’s note: Several options for comments are available:
WWW.Regulations.gov Follow directions for Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2016-0004.
PAMLICO COUNTY – Two limited liability companies with ties to Santa Monica, Calif.-based Cypress Creek Renewables will soon break ground on large tracts (one behind Food Lion in Grantsboro, and the other near the DPD Concrete Plant in Alliance) in order to construct massive solar-powered generating facilities. Known as Anjuna Solar and Coogee Solar, the operations each have a 35-year lease on their respective locations, and will sell power to Duke Energy Progress. Each facility is expected to cost approximately $10 million with an anticipated output of 10.5 million kilowatt-hours per year.
By Bill Hines, Creek Keeper
NEUSE RIVER – I am asking readers of the County Compass to oppose the state Senate proposals in House Bill 1030 that would block cleanup plans for impaired bodies of water such as Jordan Lake, Falls Lake (headwaters of the Neuse), the Catawba River, and Randleman Reservoir. The premise for the provision – that North Carolina’s nutrient management strategies have not worked and will not work – is false. The strategies have reduced nitrogen and phosphorus pollution input where they have been implemented.
The NC Senate has inserted language in the budget bill that would set a termination date for all four current nutrient management strategies in NC, and propose to redo what was a lengthy (12 year) and thorough stakeholder process to develop those strategies. The language directs the Division of Environment Quality to lead a new stakeholder process to develop new strategies. This is clearly a plan to weaken or eliminate nutrient controls, and all Republican Senators voted for the provision including our own Norman Sanderson.
In contrast to what is said in the bill, the nutrient management strategies have had an impact. Some of Oriental residents and fishermen will remember the massive fish kills of the mid to late 90’s when the Neuse was rated one of the 10 most endangered rivers in the US. We have all work very long and hard to change this.
Senator Sanderson – Norman.Sanderson@ncleg.net – 919-733-5706
Representative Speciale – Michael.Speciale@ncleg.net – 919-733-5853
Below is the email I sent to these legislators. I encourage you to communicate your concerns. Spread the word.
I am writing on behalf of Sound Rivers out of grave concern about section 14.13 in the Senate version of HB 1030, the budget bill. This section effectively eliminates all nutrient management strategies that were developed through a thorough and balanced stakeholder process over almost a 10-year period. Pressure has been applied on you and others stating that the nutrient management strategies don’t work. This is simply not true.
Please consider the following points:
These strategies have been demonstrated to work on all the sources of pollution identified in the nutrient management strategies to the extent that they have been implemented. Some of the rules such as those for Jordan and Falls Lake have yet to be implemented so statements that they haven’t worked are specious in the extreme.
Four long running stakeholder processes were used to develop the current nutrient management strategies this bill eliminates; repeating that stakeholder process as directed by the bill is obviously a waste of both time and tax-payer money.
Our estuaries have stabilized due to the benefit of these management strategies, but are not yet healed. As was well understood by the stakeholders, the impact of these nutrient management strategies will be gradual and increase over time.
Although the improvement in the estuaries isn’t as great as desired, it is improvement compared to the mid to late 90’s.The cost of ending the existing nutrient management strategies will ultimately result in higher costs as the benefit of the current strategies is undone.
The budget bill during the short session is not the appropriate manner or time to create and consider a very important environmental action. For instance, committing another $500,000 to study how to correct pollution once it is in Jordan or Falls Lake will simply embarrass the legislature once again as the Solar Bee experiment has done.
On behalf of Sound Rivers members and the thousands of people who depend on clean water throughout our region and the state, I urge you to oppose Section 14.13 of the budget bill until more care and thought can be given to this important issue.
Scientist to address Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association
NEW BERN – Perhaps best known as an anti-wind power activist, John Droz, Jr. will address members of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association this Tuesday, April 19, at 7 p.m. in the Stanly Hall Ballroom on Pollock Street in downtown New Bern.
However, for this presentation, Droz focuses on newly proposed maps to delineate flood plains, which are supposed to reflect a projected sea level rise.
Droz, always a well-informed skeptic when it comes to government intervention in our economy, is expected to outline the devastating implications of using ‘currently accepted government data’ for setting new flood insurance rates.
The message from Droz has been received favorably by many of North Carolina’s legislators. He has an impressive record in the fight against popular sea-rise science, coastal development limits, and renewable energy plans both inside and beyond North Carolina.
In 2011, Droz joined the Board of Directors and became scientific advisor to NC-20, an advocacy group that has been outspoken against restrictions on coastal development. Droz also runs the website “Wind Power Facts,” which asserts that mainstream information about wind power is distributed primarily by industry lobbyists while the “real science” indicates that we should abandon wind power as a source of energy.
The April 19 event is free and open to the public. For more information, call Rick Hopkins at (252) 626-3662.
Dying roadside vegetation shocks visitors
PAMLICO COUNTY – Penny wise and pound foolish prevails as a common theme among the letters and e-mails that this newspaper continues to receive regarding recent chemical spraying along the county’s roadways.
State Department of Transportation officials describe the practice as a safe, wisely considered alternative to more costly mowing and trimming.
This week’s correspondence from New Bern resident Ann Knowles — in which she credits an original letter from Jeff Lomer — is an excellent example of almost universal sentiment from our readers:
My husband and I live in New Bern but we are fortunate to have property in Pamlico County that we enjoy on the weekends. We were both so sick and disappointed a few weeks ago when we saw what had happened
to the roadsides from being sprayed to control the vegetation.
Jeff Lomer was so right in your article. This is truly an eyesore and I hope someone can figure out a better way to stop this with a solution not only for Pamlico County but for all of the counties that have this done.
Our roadsides should be taken care of not only for the residents but also for the tourism that this state encourages. This is just too sad and affects so much more than people realize. Our environment deserves better than this.
After the Depression, state leaders realized the state’s largely agrarian economy might benefit from tourism dollars. By 1937, plans were in place. To win support of legislators, no one part of the state would be promoted over another, hence the hugely popular slogan “Variety Vacationland.”
Born and bred Tar Heels, at least those older than 50, remember the aggressive, long-running marketing campaign. Lush, green back roads of the Old North State were featured on billboards, glossy magazines, and over the airways using a relatively new technology known as television!!
And, back when tobacco was King, the Winston-Salem based cigarette manufacturer R.J. Reynolds, even produced feature films – almost all depicting magnificent, scenic vistas being enjoyed by smiling, well-scrubbed, money-spending tourists. In the background, there was not a single dead tree or branch to be seen.
Alas, times change.
Is this DOT payback for opposition to ferry tolls?
I, too, am outraged at the actions of the DOT in defoliating state roadways in Pamlico County. I agree with previous letters to your newspaper regarding the devastation to our ecosystem, the negative impact on tourism, and the total eyesore for all of us traveling through Pamlico County on a daily basis.
It occurs to me that perhaps Pamlico County is being punished for opposing DOT’s proposed ferry tolls. It seems the whole purpose of the spraying was to create something offensive and ugly. Either the trees will die and we will be stuck with an infestation of pine beetles — as I doubt DOT will come out to remove the dead trees; or, the trees will survive, making the spraying pointless.
Never before have I seen such an utter disregard and total lack of respect for the people of Pamlico County and the beauty of nature. I doubt this devastation would have been done along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I implore our elected officials to stop any future “chemical mowing” by DOT. I have written to Representative Speciale and Senator Sanderson and encourage anyone who agrees with me to add their voice and tell them you want this ill-conceived practice to be stopped.
You can send your emails to Representative Michael Speciale at firstname.lastname@example.org, and to Senator Norman Sanderson at email@example.com.
I just finished reading Brian Rick’s response to everyone’s questions regarding the recent spraying. He is the Public Information Officer for our DOT District.
Of the 11 issues addressed, I found Number 9 to be the most ridiculous! Everyone, including NCDOT, knows that ditches along the roadway eventually flow into the watershed.
I am certain there are literally dozens of examples of ditches that were sprayed that empty into a creek that eventually finds its way to the river. I will only speak of the ones that know of personally and those are ditches along Horton Rd (Rt.1372). These ditches were sprayed on either side of Horton Road, even though the residents of Horton Road maintain the State right-of-way to “lawn” standards. These ditches eventually empty into Hog Pen Gut, Otter Creek, and finally Green Creek. All of these bodies of water contain abundant marine life as is obvious by the number of crab pots in the area. Also, migrating shrimp pass through these waters on their way to the river and Sound.
Is Mr. Rick so academically challenged that he doesn’t see that while there were no direct “in the water” applications, there was still a considerable amount of Krenite finding its way into our creeks and river. Water flows downhill, Mr. Rick, and if that water is contaminated with a chemical not suited for “in the water” applications, then that chemical is endangering one of Pamlico County’s main resources. We eat the fish and shrimp that come from these waters and people swim and boat in these waters.
In closing, I would like to add that I especially liked the reference to safety, and his reference to all of the ice and snow we get here.
By Bill Hines
Oriental Creek Keeper
PAMLICO COUNTY — As a follow-up to recent articles in the County Compass about Krenite being sprayed along our county’s roadways, I drove several of the roads in Craven, Carteret and Beaufort Counties looking to see if they were also using Krenite to kill the weeds along their roads, but could find no evidence of its use in those counties.
I was able to find out from our county DOT that the chemicals were applied by NCDOT Roadside Environmental Unit (REU) whose Mission Statement is: “To provide roadside elements for a statewide highway system that are safe, environmentally sound, attractive and responsive to the public’s needs.”
Since Krenite is not supposed to turn foliage brown, I asked what other chemicals were used and it turns out it was a mixture of Krenite, Triclopyr 3, and Element 4. We know that Krenite is designed to keep plants from growing leaves in the next growing season. The worry with Krenite is not that it will kill the aquatic life but that it will impact on our spring bloom of grasses in our creeks, which is an important source of food and habitat for each year’s crop of fish, crabs and shrimp.
The two other chemicals are even more worrisome. For example, Element 4 directions: “Do not apply directly to open water, highly toxic to aquatic organisms.“ (source: Penn State College of Agriculture).
Triclopyr 3 directions: “Due to the high chemical properties of this product, it is not recommended for use on permeable soil, as it can seep in and contaminate the ground. This product is also effective in treating water weeds, however, users should be aware that it may harm pond fish and other aquatic life.” (source: Phoenix Environmental Design, Inc. product vendor). “Triclopyr can move through soil and has the potential to contaminate groundwater.” “Triclopyr ranges from practically non-toxic to highly toxic to fish, depending on the fish species and the triclopyr formulation “ (source: National Pesticide Information Center).
What the scientific data seems to suggest is that chemicals sprayed on our roadside ditches can contaminate ground water, is harmful to fish and aquatic life, and will impact on our aquatic grasses that support our young fish, shrimp and crabs.
The main livelihoods of this county are Farming, Forestry and Fishing. The use of a product designed to kill weeds that will go from the ditches into our creeks and ground water endangers many a commercial fisherman’s livelihood. The state office of NCDOT Roadside Environmental Unit needs to consider what impact they can have on one of our major sources of income for a lot of hard work people in Pamlico County.
In closing, I want to mention that a group of us were discussing the roadside spraying and a mother overheard us and told us that her 13-year old daughter had a terrible reaction to it. She had been playing around the ditches, and had a bad reaction that required three or four different prescription medications. It’s unlikely her daughter was the only person countywide who had a bad reaction to these ‘safe’ chemicals.