Pittsboro urges legislature to say ‘no’ to fracking

Thumbs up to the Pittsboro Town Board for passing a resolution tonight that urges the North Carolina General Assembly to  maintain current laws saying no to fracking anywhere in our state. The Board voted 5-0 after hearing from more than half a dozen local residents, including me, who expressed concerns about the negative impacts fracking could have on Pittsboro’s environment, groundwater, public health, economic development, sustainable agriculture and unique quality of life.

Citizens testifying about the dangers of fracking included Gary Simpson from Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities, Haw Riverkeeper Elaine Chiosso,  Colleen Kendrick of the Deep River Clean Water Society, John Wegner, Barb Tessa and others.

Here’s the resolution:

“Whereas hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ is a method of extracting natural gas that involves injecting at an extremely high pressure, an undisclosed mixture of water, sand, and toxic chemicals to break up shale or other rock formations otherwise impermeable to the flow of gas;

“Whereas, North Carolina does not currently allow either horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing, and the current North Carolina study of in-state shale gas resources and of the potential impacts of reversing this ban and allowing drilling and fracking to extract these resources is being undertaken without adequate funding and without adequate time;

“Now Therefore Be It Resolved that we, the members of the Town of Pittsboro Board of Commissioners urge the North Carolina General Assembly to maintain current laws in North Carolina that prevent hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the State and to take no action that would weaken these laws before it is fully demonstrated that North Carolina public health, waters, land, air, economy and qualify of life can be fully protected from impacts of allowing shale gas development in the state.”

–Jeff

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Thumbs up for Dist. 54 mayors’ support for public education

My letter to the editor published in Chatham News and Record, Feb.1, 2012:

I want to applaud Siler City Mayor Charles Johnson, Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller, Goldston Mayor Tim Cunnup, and Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive for supporting Governor Bev Perdue’s proposal to restore some $800,000 in state funds for our public schools.  While I am not generally a supporter of increased sales taxes because their impact is “regressive” (lower income households pay a higher percentage), I would support restoring a 3/4 cent increase if that was the only politically feasible way to adequately fund our public schools. Obviously, I would prefer those who can better afford it to pay a higher percentage burden of any tax increase than the numerous retirees, blue collar workers and unemployed in Chatham and Lee counties.

Since the 2008-2009 budget year approximately 6,108 NC public school employees have lost their jobs, 76% of whom were teachers or teacher assistants.  Although our local schools have done a good job of keeping those numbers down, we still have lost a significant number of positions, including completely eliminating Chatham’s middle school Spanish program. And while the Chatham Board majority did not actually cut their dollar contribution, they also did not provide sufficient funds to maintain the same per pupil funding, based on increases in student enrollment. Commissioner Sally Kost and I lobbied for these funds because we both considered not providing them as a funding “cut”.

I also support President Obama’s American Jobs Act, in large part, because it will provide North Carolina sufficient funds to restore or retain a total of 13,400 education jobs.

Any increased educational funding should be focused on classrooms and direct educational services.

Research clearly shows that the most important factor in improving a state’s and local community’s economic development and prosperity is public educational quality. Thanks to our state legislature’s misguided cuts to education, North Carolina has dropped to 46th in per pupil state funding. We are now below Mississippi and South Carolina. That is embarrassing.

It is time we put our future – our children and grandchildren – first.  I don’t have all the answers to the best way to fund education but I am willing to do my part and pay my share to make it happen. I hope you feel the same.

UNC study lauds importance of early education

Thumbs up to UNC researchers for their study showing the importance of investing in early childhood education. That’s what it’s all about and why I’ve made enhancing public education, from pre-school through community colleges and universities, an important part of my plank. Here’s an excerpt from Jane Stancill’s excellent article in The News and Observer, and a link so you can read the full story.

Poor children who get high-quality day care as early as infancy reap long-lasting benefits, including a better chance at a college degree and steady employment, according to a UNC-Chapel Hill study that followed participants from birth to age 30.

The latest findings, published this week in the online journal Developmental Psychology, are from one of the longest-running child care studies in the United States.

Conducted by the Frank Porter Graham Development Institute at UNC, the research is widely cited in a body of evidence that early childhood education can change the trajectory of young lives.

The findings may be cited in a court battle looming over state-funded pre-kindergarten for low-income children. For months, Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue and Republican leaders in the legislature have been at odds over funding for preschool for 4-year-olds.

The UNC study, known as the Abecedarian Project, began in 1972 with 111 babies from low-income families who were randomly assigned to two groups.

Half were enrolled in quality early childhood education from infancy to kindergarten; the other half, the control group, received what ever care their families arranged.

Researchers have followed the children since then. Along the way, the child care group posted better scores on reading and math tests in school.

They were more likely to pursue education beyond high school and less likely to become teenage parents.

College and beyond

The latest data from the participants, at age 30, show that those who received early education were four times more likely to earn a college degree – 23 percent graduated from a four-year college, compared with 6 percent in the control group.

There is little question that such early education can improve the odds for poor children, said Frances Campbell, a senior scientist at the institute and lead author of the study.

“That’s the take-home message, that you must not ignore the early years,” she said, “because what you do to enhance a child’s development when he is very, very young has very long-termimplications.”

The children in the early-education group also were more likely to have consistent employment and less likely to have used public assistance.

Seventy-five percent had worked full time for at least 16 of the past 24 months, compared with 53 percent of the control group……

Fracking debate calls for caution, wisdom

Thumbs up to Lee County Commissioner Richard Hayes for this letter to the editor in the Sanford Herald.


“I am surprised, but not concerned, that some municipalities have taken the initiative to oppose/outlaw fracking in order to send a signal to the N.C. General Assembly, and to the shale gas industry, that they will be vigorously opposed to any quick, ill-considered, late-night legislation that gives the green light to fracking in North Carolina before it is thoroughly researched and exposed for what it is and what it is not; discussed and debated in open public hearings and possibly decided by a statewide referendum before action is taken and legislation is crafted.

“So, while I can see how this action may be seen as premature by some, it is not obviously to others. It is symbolic at this stage, showing that citizens, through their elected leaders at the local level, are concerned and willing to fight to protect their land and water from the perception and possible reality of predation on the local environment by the shale gas industry, especially after what has happened in Pennsylvania and other states where oil and gas companies have, in some well documented areas (not all), extracted the gas and left some land owners wealthier but the countryside used up and in ruins at public expense.

“I am on the side of caution — taking whatever time is necessary to learn from and greatly improve upon what other states have experienced and paid for, making every effort to understand this relatively new technology and whether it is something we want to open the door to in our beautiful state, which has always intelligently protected it natural resources.

“While this could be a source of considerable new tax revenue to North Carolina, and royalties to land owners where shale gas is extracted, we must be prudent and wise and not rush into a new enterprise based on the disarming promise of new jobs and new revenues short term, decisions which could cost our citizens and environment dearly in the long run.”

–Richard Hayes, Lee County Commissioner