Thursday News: The answer, my friend


GOVERNOR COOPER SETS OFFSHORE WIND ENERGY GOALS FOR NC: N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper has announced the state’s first-ever targets for offshore wind energy development as part of an executive order, the latest in a series of steps to move the still-fledgling industry forward. North Carolina’s newly announced targets are 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030 and 8 gigawatts by 2040. Meeting the goal of 8 gigawatts by 2040 would power about 2.3 million homes with offshore wind, according to a press release from Cooper’s office. In addition to setting offshore wind goals, the executive order establishes the NC Task Force for Offshore Wind Economic Resource Strategies, or NC TOWERS, an effort led by the state Department of Commerce to boost offshore wind economic development efforts.

RALEIGH WILL HOLD MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS IN EVEN-NUMBERED YEARS: The state House voted unanimously Wednesday to support Senate Bill 722, which pushes 2021 municipal elections to 2022. The move sent the bill, which had been amended, back the Senate for approval. The bill would move Raleigh's City Council elections from Oct. 5 of this year Nov. 8, 2022. The city would need to review and revise its electoral districts by March 22 of next year. It also moved Raleigh City Council elections to even-numbered years in the future. The bill comes as municipal leaders across the country wait for the data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which has been delayed. Other cities and towns that need the census data to redraw their council districts would hold their elections in March, at the same time as the statewide primary.

REPUBLICANS PASS VOTE-BY-MAIL RESTRICTIONS AFTER BLOCKING PUBLIC COMMENTS: After stopping several members of the public from speaking about a controversial elections bill up for debate in a legislative committee Wednesday, Republican state lawmakers advanced the bill over Democrats’ objections. in after Election Day — even if they were mailed on time. “Every day that passes after the election with uncertainty just causes distrust in the process,” Republican Sen. Warren Daniel of Morganton said. “Every day without a clear winner breeds suspicious theories in people’s minds, and that’s not healthy for the elections process.” “This bill will result in many ballots — valid ballots from registered voters — being thrown away because they arrive after Election Day,” Sen. Natasha Marcus of Charlotte said. “And that’s the opposite of election integrity. It’s going to be bipartisan disenfranchisement because it’s going to be your voters, my voters, everywhere in the state.” A large crowd came to the committee Wednesday for the bill, many of them liberal activists. But some who signed up to speak weren’t allowed to, after the committee’s time ran out. The bill had originally been first on the day’s three-item agenda but was pushed to last — something Danielle Brown of the group Black Voters Matter said was done to run out the clock, after the committee’s Republican leaders saw how many people came to speak.

MICHAEL REGAN MOVES TO REVERSE TRUMP POLICY ON STREAMS AND WETLANDS: The Biden administration is set to toss out President Donald Trump’s efforts to scale back the number of streams, marshes and other wetlands that fall under federal protection, kicking off a legal and regulatory scuffle over the fate of wetlands and waterways around the country, from the arid West to the swampy South. Michael Regan, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said his team determined that the Trump administration’s rollback is “leading to significant environmental degradation.” The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers will craft a new set of protections for waterways that provide habitats for wildlife and safe drinking water for millions of Americans, according to a joint statement. With the announcement, the Biden administration is wading into a decades-long battle over how far federal officials can go to stop contaminants from entering small streams and other wetlands. In 2015, the Obama administration expanded federal authority to stop or curtail development that could harm a variety of wetlands, streams and ditches that feed into larger bodies of water protected under the Clean Water Act. Heeding the call of home developers, oil drillers and growers who saw the restrictions as detrimental to their livelihoods, the Trump administration rolled back those Obama-era pollution controls. But critics, including a panel of independent scientists picked by the Trump administration itself, slammed the move for potentially hastening the destruction of waterways, including “ephemeral” (also known as "intermittent") streams that appear only after rainfall and help purify water on its way to larger lakes and rivers that serve as sources of drinking water for millions of Americans.

SOUTHERN STATES ARE DANGEROUSLY LAGGING IN COVID VACCINATION RATES: Public health departments have held vaccine clinics at churches. They have organized rides to clinics. Gone door to door. Even offered a spin around a NASCAR track for anyone willing to get a shot. Still, the United States’ vaccination campaign is sputtering, especially in the South, where there are far more doses than people who will take them. As reports of new Covid-19 cases and deaths nationwide plummet and many Americans venture out mask-free, experts fear the virus could eventually surge again in states like Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, where fewer than half of adults have had a first shot. “I don’t think people appreciate that if we let up on the vaccine efforts, we could be right back where we started,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, the director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. A range of theories exist about why the South, which as of Wednesday was home to eight of the 10 states with the lowest vaccination rates, lags behind: hesitancy from conservative white people, concerns among some Black residents, longstanding challenges when it comes to health care access and transportation. The answer, interviews across the region revealed, was all of the above. “There’s no magic bullet. There’s no perfect solution,” said Dr. W. Mark Horne, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association.