Ashvegas Political Hit List: Coal ash conundrum for McCrory, fracking tests, more

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Ashvegas: The City You Love. The News You Want.By James Harrison

Parking-gate drama rises, falls

Well, that was fun. Decades from now, we’ll all huddle round the fire and reminisce, “Remember Parking-Gate? Were you there?” The stories we’ll tell. How Councilman Cecil Bothwell used his card to open the garage for dozens of vehicles at Mountain Moral Monday; how he was charged $512 by the city; how he asked supporters to foot the bill, and ultimatelydecided to pay the fee out-of-pocket while stowing the donations in his campaign fund? Have you not heard? How it wasrevealed Buncombe County Commissioner Mike Fryar (a Bothwell critic) had taken similar action in a parking lot last fall on Coxe Avenue? How Bothwell and Fryar duked it out in an hour-long radio interview? Man, that was fun.

Winding down in Raleigh

The budget’s passed, the final bill is signed. All that was left for lawmakers to do was return to the legislative building andfigure out how to wrap it all up. Raleigh news station WRAL reported Thursday that Senators sent their House colleagues “not one, not two, but three” resolutions to adjourn. As of late Thursday, there was still no agreement. There’s still a chance they could return for a special session in November, to tackle the topic of Medicaid reform, so wait and see.

Public records shakeup

Carolina Public Press editor Jon Elliston has an excellent roundup of how a slew of proposed changes to how the state handles public records played out in this year’s short session. If you’re curious about penalties for disclosing fracking chemicals, charter school employee pay, or how campaign finance reports will be filed in coming years, click here.

Coal ash conundrum for McCrory

The Raleigh News & Observer revealed this week that Gov. Pat McCrory failed to disclose owning stock in Duke Energy this year, as controversy swirled around the company’s coal-ash spill on the Dan River and the governor’s ties to his former employer. According to the paper, McCrory owned “at least $10,000” in company stock this year, a fact that went unacknowledged on his spring financial disclosure. The stock was mentioned on an August supplemental form, which the governor’s lawyer chalked up to be a correction based on misunderstanding. On Thursday, McCrory said he had not broken any ethics rules. According to the News & Observer, if a lawmaker “knowingly” omits or offers incorrect information in their financial disclosures, they can be subject to criminal penalties. Whether or not the state’s ethics commission takes up the issue has yet to be determined.

Fracking tests around the corner

Within a matter of weeks, seven counties in Western North Carolina could have their wells being tested for possible fracking. Carolina Public Press reports that as a result of this summer’s lift of a state fracking ban, tests could begin as soon as September. Counties mentioned in the report include Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain. A public hearing on the topic with the state’s Mining and Energy Commission is scheduled for Sept. 12 at Western Carolina University.

Klingon candidate returns

How do you say “I’m back” in Klingon? David Waddell, a candidate who became known for using the language of Star Trek’s warrior race in a previous bid, is jumping back into the fray as a write-in candidate in the upcoming U.S. Senate race. Here’s hoping a super PAC sends him a cool million for some Trek-themed campaign commercials.

More money, more ads

The battle between U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and her GOP challenger House Speaker Thom Tillis was marked this week by a $9.1 million ad buy by Senate Democrats, attacking Tillis on his work in the legislature. That makes approximately $43 million spent by outside groups on the race so far (quick math suggests that’s about $6.50 per vote, with North Carolinareporting approximately 6.5 million registered voters last month). According to the Washington Post, the buy further indicates the state as being perhaps the most critical in battle between Republicans and Democrats for Senate control. But we already knew that, didn’t we?

See ya next week.

James Harrison recently returned to Asheville after working as a government reporter for, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter at @jharrisonAVL.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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  1. theOtherBarry September 6, 2014

    What do Tim Moffitt, Rand Paul, and Joe Biden all have in common?

    They’re all plagiarists, but only Rep. Moffitt has been caught “plagiarizing” talking points from an industry (oil/gas/fracking) that gives him monetary donations and huge ad buys for his re-election campaign.

    The fact that he distributed oil company propaganda as his own words onto the websites of 30 or 40 other GOP reps running for re-election, as if it were their own words shouldn’t surprise us…

  2. Tim Peck August 20, 2014

    Fracking Awesome
    What do President Barack Obama, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, and California Governor Jerry Brown, and former North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue all have in common? They’re all liberal Democrats. But what might surprise you to learn is that they’re all enthusiastic advocates of fracking…

    1. theOtherBarry August 20, 2014

      Bev Perdue, an “enthusiastic” backer of fracking? That must be why she vetoed the fracking bill in 2012.

      “It’s disappointing that the leaders in General Assembly would allow fracking without ensuring that adequate protections will be in place for drinking water, landowners, county and municipal governments, and the health and the safety of families in North Carolina,” she said in a statement.

    2. roo August 20, 2014

      I worked in the oilfields in Wyoming in the 70s and 80s, when steam and saltwater injection – then known as ‘secondary recovery’ were getting underway, mainly to up production in played-out fields.

      Accidents will happen. Cracked casings, when they occur, are often in the first 100-200 feet, which is where the water table is around here. Moreover, steam injection produces tectonic activity, increasing the likelihood of leakage.

      I don’t think a lot of people have really gotten their heads around just how many holes in the ground we’re talking about. Pennsylvania has over 75,000 working wells. 75,000. Let’s say there’s a 1% chance of contamination. That’s 750 wells, each contaminating scores of acres of groundwater bed, which adds up to many, many square miles of filth.

      By the way, Pennsylvania state inspectors say 9.1% of subsoil casings are compromised statewide.

      All of this is to say nothing of blowouts, which can sterilize a half-acre of topsoil for hundreds of years. Or methane leakage, which releases the greenhouse gas from hell into the atmosphere.

      In all probability, hydraulic-augmented wells will result in groundwater contamination in North Carolina. NC legislators like Tim Moffitt (who never met a corporate boss he didn’t suck up to) have plugged a bunch of stuff into fracking regs that make it difficult to track mishaps, including rollbacks on drinking water well testing a couple of years ago, which eliminates the baseline for litigation in the event of contamination.

      The bottom line: Our legislators, particularly Reps Moffitt and McGrady, are working for the petroleum extraction industry, and have systematically eliminated or hobbled property rights protections that their constituents are legitimately entitled to. Do some research on ‘forced pooling,’ educate yourself on the criminalization of open-records about fracking chemistry, and tell me, honestly, if our local legislators have done anything approximating due diligence on behalf of the people who put them in office and pay taxes. Moffitt and McGrady are bought and sold, plain and simple.

      I’m reminded of Jimmy Carter after the Three Mile Island meltdown. He went to the plant and made a strong statement, saying nuclear power could be safe. Given the fact that he was an officer in the nuclear navy, he was right as far as he knew. Nuclear power can be pretty safe – our Navy has proved it. The problem arises when the private sector, motivated by profit, begins substituting basketballs for stainless steel castings (Watts Bar plant), with the avid assistance of prostitutes like Reps Moffitt and McGrady, who will doubtless go on to new, contemptible careers as lobbyists when their legislative careers are over.

      Oh, and the people who drill these wells? They’re inexperienced and drunk. Trust me. I was sober. I got to handle the dynamite.

    3. roo August 20, 2014

      I might add that fracking relies on a ‘floor value’ of a barrel of oil to be economically viable, so don’t expect your fuel prices to go down all that much. Moreover, if our legislators were not completely ignoring collateral costs associated with inevitable contamination and cleanup, solar and wind start to look pretty price-competitive.

      Mr Moffitt is involved with ALEC, which is actively lobbying state legislatures to kill solar and wind power. Mr Moffitt doesn’t serve the public interest. He doesn’t even know what it is.

    4. boatrocker August 20, 2014

      Answer: the black guy won the presidency twice for an honest election unlike 2000.

      And they want to do away with corporate elections.

      Or, the FOX news playbook is now considered obsolete.

      Next question please?

  3. theOtherBarry August 19, 2014

    Get ready for another round of baloney. At the end of Thom Tillis’s humiliating defeat on House Bill 1224 (at the hands of his own party), the very last thing he gid before slamming the gavel down was to name Tim Moffitt to the conference committee pretending to work on a compromise on the coal ash bill.

    About an hour later, Chuck McGrady tweeted that an agreement had been signed, and the bill will be heard in the House tomorrow.

    Wow, that Representative Moffitt is gooooood. He didn’t even need time to roll up his shirt sleeves.

    1. theOtherBarry August 20, 2014

      As expected, that “compromise” is very nearly the same crappy deal that we saw get pulled earlier. It allows Duke to shift costs of any cleanup onto customers instead of Duke shareholders, it allows them to continue to pollute groundwater while they play with new technologies to someday, maybe, somehow fix the problem (maybe they’ll “beam” the pollutants out like in Star Trek), and it makes it probable that the majority of the ash ponds won’t be cleaned up, but rather “capped in place”.

      Thanks to Rep. McGrady, and especially thanks to Rep. Moffitt, who couldn’t wait to rush over and sign his name to it before it was even debated in the House:

  4. theOtherBarry August 18, 2014

    In his latest attempt to distract us from the depressing reality that is his time in office, Rep. Moffitt’s first TV ad pretends that he is running against Barack Obama.

    “116th District!!! Buncombe County!!! Your opponents name is Brian Turner!!! Hellooooooo?”

    Medicaid? Water seizures? Privatization? Drones? Teacher pay? Letting Duke off the hook? Your threats to abolish Asheville and turn its financial obligations over to the County? These are the things voters want to talk about.

    Somebody poke Tim & tell him he’s not running for President yet…

  5. theOtherBarry August 17, 2014

    A second Tea Party-alligned site has come out criticizing Rep. Tim Moffitt for his role in the shadowy passage of the drone bill into law.

    The first, of course: the Asheville Tea Party seems unwilling to accept his assurances that “This particular bill is more than likely not going anywhere,” since it had already been signed into law two days earlier. They seem to think that he thinks that they are “stupid”.

    Then comes Tea Party organ, The Daily Haymaker. They repeat the previous criticism of Rep. Moffitt, and then add in the suggestion that the drone bill was snuck into law without any public debate or even a hearing in the Senate, for… well, for some specific nefarious purpose.

    “It MUST be nice to have legislators standing by ready to change the law to benefit your business and throw you some cash.”

    Gosh, serious attacks from the political Right on “NC’s Most Effective Legislator”. He is having quite an effect, I’ll give him that.

  6. Elvis PReseley August 16, 2014

    McCrory belongs behind bars for his crimes!

  7. Nate August 16, 2014

    There are no penalties for disclosing charter school employee pay. In the same article you linked it clearly says that the version of the bill that passed did NOT put new restrictions on access to that information.

    1. Chester August 16, 2014

      * Yawn *

      You sound like you like to be right

      1. Nate August 16, 2014

        Who doesn’t?

        In this particular case I’d say it’s more annoyance about being “tricked” into reading the linked article to find out about restrictions that don’t actually exist, but call it whatever you want.

        1. theOtherBarry August 16, 2014

          I think you’re ‘annoyed’ because it’s apparent that the GOP really, really wanted and attempted to release charter schools from the same accountability as regular schools. It’s only because one Democrat made noise (and because it’s an election year), that they were forced to back off.

          That’s something that voters needed to hear.

    2. theOtherBarry August 16, 2014

      But they tried mightily to make it so. It was only after the sole Democrat on the conference committee started making noise about it, that they grudgingly made the same disclosure rules apply to charter schools.

  8. theOtherBarry August 15, 2014

    Meanwhile the vaudeville show on coal ash cleanup in the General Assembly grinds on. Now it’s the Senate that really wants to finish the bill requiring Duke to spend a lot of money on cleaning up their mess, and it’s the darn House that’s dragging their feet!!

    Get it? When they come back home to campaign, the GOPers from both houses will claim that they worked really hard, and wanted to hold Duke accountable, but it was that damn other house that held them back.

    It’s a juvenile and obvious game of political good-cop-bad-cop, with the end result being that Duke is going to be let off the hook.

    “But hey, re-elect us and we really really promise to take care of it after it’s too late for you to punish us… (snicker)…”

  9. murphy August 15, 2014

    Here’s a list from the internets of the chemicals used in fracking…

    the law says nothing about providing a link.

    1. Tim Peck August 17, 2014

      Draft rules require operators to register chemicals used at Several other states already do this.

      Another list of the 5% of chemicals used in fracking fluid, besides 99.5% water and sand, is contained in the appendix of this report on fracking in North Carolina:

      Facts on Fracking


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