Letter from Environment North Carolina to Everblue

Wed, 2010-12-29 11:41

Dear Everblue,

As I sit down to plan the next year, I have to admit it will bring challenges. The state continues to struggle under a hefty budget deficit—which has already brought proposals to close some of our state parks and cut our land conservation programs. Congress has failed to act decisively to slash global warming pollution, putting even more of a burden on our state leaders to act. We’ll miss the outgoing leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly, who have played a big role in promoting clean energy, preserving our forests and farmlands, and protecting our air and drinking water.

But there’s plenty of cause for hope. For one, North Carolinians still overwhelmingly support measures to protect our beaches and mountains, to repower the state with solar and wind energy, and to protect our drinking water supplies. Every single one of the state’s staunchest environmental legislators, those who scored 100% on our scorecard, won their elections in November.

We’ve worked with many of Raleigh’s new leaders on efforts to protect our environment. Most of all, together we’ve achieved an awful lot in 2010. Below are highlights of the progress that, with your continued support and collaboration, we can surely build upon in the coming year.

Saving the Outer Banks
Environment North Carolina—along with numerous environmental allies, the coastal tourism industry, the fishing industry, and anyone who loves North Carolina’s Outer Banks and the rest of our coast—scored a huge milestone this month when the Obama Administration withdrew its plans to open 200 million acres of the Atlantic Coast to offshore drilling beginning as soon as 2012.

The December 1st announcement capped months of advocacy and organizing by my staff and volunteers and the rest of the Environment America federation. In late March, when President Obama opened the doors to drilling off our shores, we responded with 25,000 petition signatures urging him to reconsider. And, after the Deepwater Horizon rig leaked 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf, we took an active role in “Hands Across the Sand,” the largest demonstration against offshore drilling the world has ever seen.

Our canvassers pounded the pavement from Asheville to Wilmington all summer to spread the word about the need to protect our coasts. Policy Advocate Margaret Hartzell and our allies, including the Southern Environmental Law Center and the NC Coastal Federation, worked with legislative champions Rep. Rick Glazier, Sen. Margaret Dickson, and others to pass a bill making it harder for oil companies to drill in state waters. We distributed free “Don’t Drill off OBX” stickers to thousands of supporters nationwide. And field organizer Locky Stewart reached out to coastal businesses and local elected officials about how our coasts are far more valuable for fishing and tourism than they are for drilling.

Of course, we will keep building public support to thank the Administration, and make sure it doesn’t back down in the face of opposition from Big Oil. And our work won’t be done until the Outer Banks and the rest of our beaches get the permanent protection they deserve. But for now, a big thanks for all you did to make this critical step forward possible!

Growing Solar in North Carolina
With plenty of technological know-how and twice as much sun as Germany, the world’s solar leader, North Carolina is perfectly poised for a dramatic growth in solar power. Together, we made more progress this year toward our vision of 700,000 homes, businesses, and other buildings with solar roofs by 2030.

Our May report, Working with the Sun, demonstrated solar power’s potential not only to reduce air and global warming pollution and save water resources, but also to boost the state’s economy. The analysis, which our allies at Carolina Solar Energy and O2 Energies helped review, showed that drawing on the sun to meet 14 percent of the state’s projected energy needs in the next 20 years would produce 28,000 jobs annually, and up to 42,000 if a substantial portion of panels were manufactured here in the state. Southern Energy Management and other green businesses also joined us to release our findings.

This summer, lawmakers, backed by our organization, the NC Sustainable Energy Association, and many others, continued the state’s promotion of solar power by improving the state’s generous renewable-energy investment tax credits, and by reinstating the tax credit for manufacturing solar panels and other renewable energy equipment.

Saving Falls Lake
Drawing more than 700,000 each year for fishing, camping, and swimming, Falls Lake is a popular recreation spot for the region. It also provides drinking water to nearly half a million. But the lake suffers from algae blooms and beach closings that are in part a result of the area’s unplanned development.

In 2010, we urged officials to adopt rules to protect Falls Lake similar to those approved for Jordan Lake in 2009. Hundreds of members and supporters sent in comments in favor of a strong Falls Lake clean up plan, and our interns and staff joined WakeUp Wake County, the Neuse River Foundation, and the NC Conservation Network in testifying at public hearings in favor of a strong plan. The Environmental Management Commission’s final restoration plan for the Lake, approved in November, will help ensure Falls Lake is a source of drinking water, recreation, and regional pride for many years to come.

Building a Better North Carolina
The homes and buildings we live and work in account for more than 70 percent of our total electricity consumption, much of which is wasted. In fact, up to half of what the average homeowner pays in monthly electricity bills goes towards energy use that could be eliminated by simple measures such as thicker insulation, better windows, and more efficient lighting.

We saw important progress in 2010 towards building a better North Carolina. In October, local government officials convening in Charlotte approved new model building codes that will improve the energy efficiency of new homes by nearly a third. If adopted nationwide, the new codes would save homeowners nearly $19 billion. We joined green builders and partners at Mathis Consulting and the NC Sierra Club to recruit code officials to conference and urge them to adopt the improved code.

Just last week, Governor Perdue’s building code council voted to require new homes and businesses in North Carolina to be 15 to 30 percent more efficient. The Council voted to increase efficiency standards in commercial construction by 30 percent and in residential construction by 15 percent beyond the building code’s current standard. The new building code will take effect in January 2012 and becomes mandatory in March 2012. In addition to the mandatory 15 percent increase in residential efficiency, the Council also established a voluntary compliance path and special recognition for builders who choose to build new homes to the higher 30 percent efficiency standards and above. The move followed tough advocacy by our allies, leadership from Governor Perdue, and hundreds of emails from our members and activists urging strong action.

Wind Power for North Carolina
North Carolina has some of the best resources along the Atlantic coast for harnessing winds offshore to create electricity, according to a National Wildlife Federation report. Environment North Carolina’s Margaret Hartzell released the study this month along with Governor Perdue and the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. We look forward to working with Gov. Perdue and all our allies for clean wind energy in 2011.

On behalf of the staff of Environment North Carolina, my gratitude and sincere wishes for a happy and fruitful new year.

-Environment North Carolina-

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