Wednesday News: Not off our coast


NC DEQ IS TAKING PUBLIC COMMENTS ON SEISMIC TESTING AND OFFSHORE DRILLING: President Donald Trump promised an America-First offshore energy strategy that could include drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has made opposition to drilling a centerpiece of his new administration. “I can sum it up in four words: Not off our coast,” Cooper said last month. “It is simply not worth the risk.” Now North Carolina residents are getting their chance to have their voices heard on the issue. About 175 people attended and 45 people spoke at a N.C. Department of Environmental Quality public event in Wilmington on Monday night, according to Bridget Munger with the state’s DEQ. It was the first of three DEQ-sponsored events this week. The deadline for states to submit comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is Aug. 17. DEQ is accepting public comments through Aug. 15.

STATE AGENCIES NEED MORE FUNDING TO MONITOR GENX CONTAMINATION: Two state agencies are asking lawmakers for about $2.6 million combined to monitor GenX contamination in the Cape Fear River and study the health effects of ingesting the unregulated chemical compound. GenX was found in June in the river, which is a drinking water source for Wilmington and surrounding communities. A Bladen County plant that produces the chemical has stopped discharging it into the river, and Gov. Roy Cooper said recently that his administration will block any new permit allowing such discharges to resume. "While we have deployed our staff experts to address the immediate challenges, long-term solutions such as rigorous water testing and scrutiny of water discharge permits will take more resources than the State of North Carolina currently maintains in our departments," Secretary of Environmental Quality Michael Regan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen said in a letter sent Tuesday to lawmakers in the region.

REWARDING FAILURE: HOFELLER'S CONTRACT TO REDRAW (HIS OWN) MAPS SHOWS GOP INCOMPETENCE: The new contract with Hofeller is dated June 27 and calls for him to receive a flat fee of $50,000 “to allow us and you to better predict the cost of this engagement.” A staff attorney for Senate leader Phil Berger released the contract Tuesday in response to a public records request from the N.C. Insider and The News & Observer. “We require your professional assistance,” legislative leaders wrote in the contract. “The General Assembly will be drawing new legislative redistricting maps to include both House and Senate districts pursuant to an order from a federal district court. Based on your knowledge and experience, we believe you are best qualified to produce such maps.”

GOVERNOR COOPER EXPANDS LAWSUIT AGAINST LEGISLATURE TO INCLUDE BUDGET SHENANIGANS: The filing targets budget language that lays out repeated increases of at least $10 million a year, for 10 years, for the Opportunity Scholarships private school voucher program. The budget orders the administration's budget director to include this money in future budget proposals, eventually building the program to $134.8 million a year. "By dictating what the governor must include in his proposed budget, the General Assembly is exercising core executive power in violation of separation of powers," Cooper's filing states. The suit also notes budget language that tinkers with federal block grant spending, arguing that the General Assembly "has no authority to appropriate these federal funds because they were provided to the state pursuant to federal law and congressional policy." Once grants are accepted, it's the governor's duty to spend them as required, the filing states.

TILLERSON IN DAMAGE CONTROL MODE AFTER TRUMP SABER-RATTLING ON NORTH KOREA: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged calm and said Americans should have “no concerns” after North Korea and President Donald Trump traded fiery threats, insisting Wednesday he doesn’t believe there is “any imminent threat.” “Americans should sleep well at night,” Tillerson said. He said North Korea’s escalating threats showed it was feeling the pressure from a successful U.S. strategy. Tillerson downplayed any speculation that the alarming developments suggested the U.S. was moving closer to a military option to dealing with the crisis over the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. He said North Korea’s escalating threats showed it was feeling the pressure from a successful U.S. strategy. “Nothing that I have seen and nothing that I know of would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours,” Tillerson said.