- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Jan. 2

The News & Observer of Raleigh on North Carolina’s tax breaks yielding better results than corporate tax cuts:

The Koch brothers can be blamed for warping politics with a flood of anonymous donations, but you’ve got to give them credit for gumption.

The Koch brothers-backed groups Americans for Prosperity and its branch aimed at young people, Generation Opportunity, are complaining about Gov. Roy Cooper’s use of tax-break incentives to attract new businesses to North Carolina.

A spokeswoman for Generation Opportunity said the group may post ads on social media protesting the incentives as “corporate welfare.” She told The News & Observer, “Corporate welfare is taxpayer money being given to rich businesses, which takes away from people who are struggling to make it.”

This from a group that applauds sweeping cuts in federal and state taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals. North Carolina’s incentives have been carefully targeted and effective. The tax breaks only apply if the eligible company actually delivers on jobs and capital investment. That’s a more constructive approach than raining tax breaks on corporations and the wealthy and hoping a benefit trickles down to “people who are struggling to make it.”

Online: http://www.newsobserver.com/

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Jan. 1

The Fayetteville Observer on drafts of legislation that deal with GenX:

As testing reveals an ever-widening web of pollution around the Chemours plant on the Cumberland-Bladen county line, it appears that the General Assembly will soon consider legislation that addresses what could be a major environmental and health threat.

But so far, that legislation doesn’t include what the state needs most as it discovers more pollution with every passing week. It doesn’t include funding. And that’s ridiculous.

The General Assembly’s House Select Committee on River Quality - initially formed in response to discovery of GenX and other “emerging contaminants” in the Cape Fear River - plans to present legislation addressing the growing threat when the General Assembly convenes for a brief session next week. Fayetteville state Rep. Elmer Floyd, a Democrat, is a member of the committee, which received drafts of the legislation shortly before Christmas.

Floyd says the legislation includes some good provisions, including directing the state Department of Health and Human Services to work with a science advisory board to develop recommended safety recommendations for the chemicals related to GenX. It also orders a review of the permitting process and tells the state Department of Environmental Quality to share its information about GenX and other contaminants with neighboring states.

But what it doesn’t do it provide any money for testing, research, permitting staff or other responses to the extensive pollution problem. This follows on the heels of last September’s showdown between lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper. The governor vetoed the first bill responding to the GenX crisis because it didn’t provide any money for the state’s response. Instead, it only appropriated $435,000 for Wilmington-area utilities and UNC-Wilmington to study the problem. The Republican-led legislature promptly and easily overrode the governor’s veto.

Since then, officials have learned that the problem is far more extensive than they knew in late summer. GenX and other chemicals from the Chemours-DuPont complex have been found in lakes and in public and private wells. It appears that the chemicals are also airborne, being blown from the plant across the neighboring countryside. GenX most recently has been found in wells on the east side of the river and state officials have several times expanded the area being tested for the pollutants. GenX and other compounds have been found in about two-thirds of the 350 wells tested so far. That includes several municipal wells serving the Bladen County water system. In about half of the wells where it is present, the state found GenX levels above recommended safety levels. The others were below it. But those guidelines are at best a public-health guess, because there is no definitive research on GenX’s effect on the human body. Research has shown, however, that the chemical causes cancers in laboratory animals and it is a suspected human carcinogen.

Chemours has agreed to stop dumping GenX into the river, but after on-site spills that the company didn’t report to the state, DEQ has moved to revoke the company’s discharge permit.

And yet, the state continues to depend on Chemours to test the wells in a widening radius around the plant. That hardly inspires faith in the residents who live around the plant. Cumberland County is considering ways of extending public water lines to residents in the vicinity of the Chemours plant. That will be an expensive endeavor and we hope the state will provide emergency funding to help make the project happen quickly. As a DEQ spokeswoman said last week, “We do not think this legislation is even a short-term solution without increased funding.”

But at this stage, money isn’t part of the state’s solution, and that’s a worrisome sign that our political leaders aren’t taking this public-health threat seriously. We suggest that they research what happened when similar chemicals were spilled over a broad area around the Chemours-DuPont plants in Parkersburg, West Virginia. It’s a sobering saga.

Meanwhile, there is still plenty of time to add funding to the legislation that will be filed shortly. Until they show us the money, we can’t believe the state is serious about this large, growing and dangerous problem.

Online: http://www.fayobserver.com/

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Jan. 1

Star News of Wilmington on safety in extreme cold weather:

Forgive us for being preachy, but with the extreme cold weather and numerous reports of fires, it seems we should share some information that - who knows - might save a life.

Our neighbors who hail from colder climates tease us about how we react to snow and cold weather. Fair enough. We’ve always acknowledged that folks in the Lower Cape Fear are well prepared for a Category 3 hurricane but panic if 3 inches of snow is forecast. (Or for that matter, 1 inch.) Same for extreme cold weather. Let’s face it: our homes, schools, plumbing, wardrobes - nor much of anything else - are suited for temperatures in the teens.

Foremost, we urge you to regularly check on vulnerable family, friends or neighbors - especially the elderly - who could be at risk from the extreme cold. We hope folks will ensure pets are out of the dangerous cold, too. And we speak from experience on this one - do what you can to keep pipes from freezing. There’s nothing quite like waking up to water coming through ceiling light fixtures after pipes in the attic froze and ruptured. True story.

Frozen pipes are a headache. Fire, on the other hand, is deadly. Whether unsafe heating sources, candles after a power failure, or food left cooking on a stove, cold weather brings with it an increased risk of fire. According to FEMA and the National Fire Incident Reporting System:

- Home fires occur more in winter than in any other season.

- Half of all home heating fires occur December-February.

- Heating equipment is involved in 1 in 7 home fires and 1 in 5 home fire deaths.

- Cooking is the leading cause of all wintertime home fires.

- A heat source too close to combustibles is the leading factor contributing to the start of a winter home fire (15 percent).

- 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. is the most common time period for winter home fires.

Some of FEMA’s prevention tips seem like common sense - keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters. Plug only one heat - producing appliance into an electrical outlet.

The problem is, while these are indeed common-sense tips, such extreme cold conditions are fairly uncommon here, so extra care and attention are probably worthwhile. When warmer weather’s here, we’ll preach again - about water safety and rip currents.

Meanwhile, it’s a cold start to 2018. Here’s to staying good and warm - and good and safe.

Online: http://www.starnewsonline.com/


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