March 1, 2013 | 14
You’ve heard us regularly crying for help here in North Carolina as our legislature has tried to turn science on its head. So, committed to keeping you posted, we here at the Plugged In Reign of Error desk thought you’d want to know what’s up.
For a moment, anyhow, our governor and his vetoproof Republican majorities in the state house and senate had stopped assaulting science outright. They appeared to content themselves with a kind of purer foofaraw. They fooled around with a bill protecting North Carolinians from nipples (one legislator suggested duct tape as a coverup), assured opossums the right to work on New Year’s Eve, protected the state from medical marijuana, and introduced a bill requiring cursive instruction in schools.
Regrettably, what with controlling both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office, Republicans appeared to grow bored with legislation that was fatuous but still not overtly and immediately harmful.
So they got back to subverting science and fast-tracked fracking in NC. They helped that process along by introducing Senate Bill 76, rethinking who needs to be on the state Mining and Energy Commission — removing obvious dead weight like water and air experts and, especially, the state geologist. As though some knucklehead like the state geologist would have anything of value to add on the topics of mining or fracking, right?
According to the bill’s sponsor, “This country needs the energy, and North Carolina needs the jobs.” So you can imagine the hesitation that passed through the state senate when this report came out, from the Research Triangle Institute, showing that renewable energy accounted for $1.7 billion in investment in the state in the past five years and during that time has powered 21,163 job years. Except, oops, you would have to imagine it because that’s a “study” and studies don’t impress North Carolina legislators.
Anyhow, once the commission-gutting gets started it’s hard to stop, so out came Senate Bill 10, which would gut another couple dozen or so state regulatory commissions — including the Coastal Resources Commission, the Environmental Management Commission, and the Wildlife Resources Commission. Sciencey stuff. The commissioners all get fired, and the governor — with “confirmation” by the vetoproof legislative Republican majorities — replaces them. Because obviously, the last thing you want on commissions with the responsibility for managing the coastline, the environment, or the state’s wildlife is a bunch of people with institutional memory and the background to think long-term.
If you’re wondering why the head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has offered no resistance to this putsch, recall that new DENR secretary John Skvarla remains unconvinced of the consensus on climate change research and wonders whether oil might not be a renewable resource. He also told WRAL Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie he was head of the Department of EnvironmentAL and Natural Resources, which may seem like a small error, but leaving out whether you’re supposed to know the name of the department you head even on your very first day, the difference between the environment and environmental resources is significant. It’s worth bearing in mind when the person in charge doesn’t think it exists.
The bill also purges the North Carolina Utilities Commission, and you scarcely need to be told that the utilities commission is being gutted by a governor– quelle surprise — who got elected with the help of NC energy giant Duke Energys; the excellent Sue Sturgis lays bare that whole sorry business here.
But wait there’s more. Given the wonderful disputes NC legislators have had over sea-level rise, it’s remarkable to see that John Droz, famous for his refusal to recognize scientific consensus on climate change, is not the state’s craziest pseudoscientific expert. Opposing a bill that would raise the age at which teens could use tanning beds from age 14 to 18 — a bill, mind you, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the North Carolina Medical Society, the North Carolina Pediatrics Society, the North Carolina Oncology Society, the North Carolina Dermatologists, and the Child Fatality Task Force — one Joe Levy disputed the relation between sunlight and skin cancer. Said Levy, representing a tanning bed trade group, not only is the UV light from tanning beds somehow different from the UV light from the sun, melanoma ”does not have direct relationship with sunlight. It is a complex relationship if at all.”
The antidote. Bring me the antidote.