Progress Dems endorse Jeff Starkweather

News Release/Progressive Democrats of NC endorse Jeff Starkweather for NC House District 54:

The Progressive Democrats of North Carolina (PDNC) are pleased to announce the endorsement of Jeff Starkweather for NC House District 54. Jeff Starkweather’s platform is solidly progressive, and his long history in Chatham County politics and community organizing supports his claim to be THE progressive candidate in this primary. His passionate commitment to sustainable growth policies that are solidly rooted in the community, his tireless efforts for clean renewable energy and green building practices, his forceful and informed voice against the dangerous practice of fracking, his unwavering support for public education and strong schools for all, and his decades-long record on human and civil rights make Jeff Starkweather a candidate the Progressive Democrats of North Carolina can whole-heartedly support.

The Progressive Democrats of North Carolina are committed to the development and implementation of progressive ideals based on human and civil rights, peace, justice and environmental sustainability in North Carolina, the nation, and the world.

www.progressivedemocratsnc.org

Advertisements

Jeff Starkweather endorsed by The Indy, Sierra Club, State Employees and AFL-CIO

News release/ April 23, 2012

Jeff Starkweather’s record of fighting for good jobs, strong schools, a clean environment and civil rights won him the endorsements of four major organizations comparing candidates for election to NC House District 54, representing all of Chatham County and a portion of Sanford.  The endorsements, based on questionnaires, interviews and candidate records, are from: The Independent Weekly, the State Employees Association, the Sierra Club, and the AFL CIO.

“I’m overwhelmed and honored by these endorsements and others I have received during the campaign from current and former elected officials, community leaders and supporters all over the district,” Starkweather said.

The Independent called Starkweather “a longtime champion of the environment, social justice and sound growth policies.” The newspaper said that the retirement of Rep. Joe Hackney, “leaves a need for a candidate who has a deep familiarity with the issues facing this district. We think Starkweather’s views on energy and growth could continue Hackney’s work; his willingness to defend public education and to stand up to social conservatives is also impressive.”

“[Starkweather] has the kind of fire Democrats need in the Legislature,” The Independent concluded.

The NC Sierra Club said it endorsed Starkweather because of his lengthy track record promoting environmental protection and renewable energy and sustainability, and his opposition to fracking.

Jeff Starkweather is a strong environmental advocate who has a long history of working for environmental causes in Chatham County and North Carolina as a whole,” the Sierra Club said. “His key environmental positions include promoting alternative energy and its use in North Carolina, strengthening North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Standards, opposing changes in laws to allow fracking for natural gas until its economic benefits are proven to outweigh its environmental costs, and searching for ways to collaborate with citizens and environmental experts to make North Carolina a model of sustainability.”

The NC AFL-CIO and Triangle Labor Council based their endorsement on Starkweather’s answers to a questionnaire and interview on employment and economic development issues. The State Employees Association of North Carolina’s EMPAC endorsement was based on a questionnaire and interview about issues facing NC public employees. They endorsed Starkweather and other selected General Assembly candidates “because we feel they understand the importance of the valuable services our members provide,” the SEANC stated in its news release.

Starkweather has lived and worked in Chatham County for 40 years. He is the former editor and publisher of The Chatham County Herald and a retired attorney who specialized in civil rights and employment law. In 2009, the Western Chatham NAACP named him a Humanitarian of the Year and in 2006 he was a News and Observer Tar Heel of the Week.

He currently serves on the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation Board and the Triangle South Workforce Development Board. In those economic policy leadership positions he was instrumental in the development of the county’s economic development strategy and industrial incentives policy and in bringing a job link center back to Chatham. He has also served on Chatham’s Sustainable Energy and Green Building Advisory Board and he chaired the Affordable Housing Advisory Board.

Sierra Club endorses Jeff Starkweather for State House

The N.C. Chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed Jeff Starkweather for NC House District 54 because of his lengthy track record promoting environmental protection, renewable energy and sustainability, and his opposition to fracking.

Jeff Starkweather is a strong environmental advocate who has a long history of working for environmental causes in Chatham County and North Carolina as a whole. His key environmental positions include promoting alternative energy and its use in North Carolina, strengthening North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Standards, opposing changes in laws to allow fracking for natural gas until its economic benefits are proven to outweigh its environmental costs, and searching for ways to collaborate with citizens and environmental experts to make North Carolina a model of sustainability,” the Sierra Club stated in its announcement.

Jeff has now received endorsements from every major organization that has compared his positions and track record with his opponent’s. He is endorsed by: The Independent Weekly, the State Employees Association of NC, the Sierra Club and the NC AFL-CIO.

He is also endorsed by 17 current and former elected officials on county, municipal and school boards in Chatham and Lee counties.

And he has the support of Women for Jeff, a campaign advisory committee comprised of more than40 active women in Chatham and Lee counties.

State Employees endorse Jeff Starkweather for State House

EMPAC, the political arm of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, announced that it is endorsing Jeff Starkweather in the State House District 54 Democratic primary contest.

Starkweather was among fourteen Democratic and four Republican state house candidates across North Carolina endorsed by EMPAC, along with five Democratic and five Republican State Senate candidates.

“I am honored and humbled to receive the endorsement of the state employees, especially since I had the pleasure of representing many state employees as an employment and civil rights attorney,” Starkweather said.  “It is particularly important at this time when state employees rights and compensation are under severe attack from state legislative leaders to have a representative who understands the importance of their work to our state’s well-being and economic prosperity.”

The endorsements resulted from recommendations from SEANC members at the district level, which were then confirmed by a statewide committee.  Both Starkweather and his Democratic primary opponent submitted answers to an EMPAC questionnaire and were interviewed by a district level committee of SEANC members.

“SEANC has no permanent friends or no permanent enemies, only permanent issues,” said state EMPAC  Chair Wayne Fish. “We chose to support these candidates because we feel they understand the importance of the valuable services our members provide.”

SEANC, SEIU Local 2008, is the South’s leading state employee association, 55,000 members strong. With 2.1 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North Carolina and includes over one million public employees who have united to improve their lives and the services they provide.

What I wanted to say

I was so impressed and moved by the statements made by so many local people testifying at the fracking hearing at Fearrington last night.  They did their homework and they spoke from the heart and the head. And the message was heard loud and clear all the way to Raleigh.

I wasn’t permitted to speak at the hearing last night because I had already spoken at the Sanford hearing ( in fact, I’ve been speaking out about this at every opportunity for months). But here’s what I had planned to say.

First, I want to thank my friend Chatham Commissioner Sally Kost, who pushed and prodded DENR to have a fracking meeting in Chatham County.  And of course I want to acknowledge former House Speaker Joe Hackney and Senator Bob Atwater for assisting Sally in making this happen.

I also want to thank the DENR staff who worked so hard on this report with so little time and so little staff resources.

Finally, I want to “thank” the DENR administrator, who gave us an unexpected gift by ignoring the substance of the report, and writing the now famous conclusion from nowhere.

Despite the fact that:

●  methane gas  has been found in nearby fracking wells;

● EPA recently found fracking fluid in nearby wells;

● no significant longitudinal studies, laboratory,  or animal studies have been conducted about water contamination by fracking;

● the shale gas deposits in North Carolina are significantly shallower than those in other states whose experience DENR was relying upon;

●  the consumer protection section was blank;

● the Department of Commerce declined to conclude that fracking would have a positive impact on our economy;

● and on, on, on…

Nevertheless, the conclusion said that fracking could be conducted in North Carolina safely IF it was properly regulated.

That insulting finding clearly did not fool anyone.

The only thing the conclusion accomplished is to help energize what is clearly the largest grass-roots environmental movement in this area in a long time.

I want to thank  leaders like Elaine Chiosso of the Haw River Assembly and Colleen Kendrick of the Deep River Clean Water Society, among many others, who have spearheaded this awesome grassroots movement here in Chatham County. I feel fortunate to have been able to play a small role in this movement and to be able work with and listen to such amazingly intelligent, diligent, passionate, poignant and humorous allies.

Clearly, the case has not been made in this report or anywhere else that economic benefits of allowing fracking for shale gas in North Carolina outweigh its costs.  Given Speaker Tillis’s statement that those proposing or opposing legislation must make the “business case,” I do not see why North Carolina should waste any more time and resources to determine if fracking can be done safely with the proper regulatory regulations and resources, unless and until the economic case can be made.

Based on my experience and research over the last eight years on community economic development strategies, I sincerely doubt that this case can be made in Chatham or anywhere else in the Triassic basin.

All this was predicted when energy experts said some time back that we had reached peak oil – the point where more than half of the total supply of potential oil has been exploited. Those experts predicted that the attempts to extract hard to reach oil and gas deposits would be more expensive and  require new experimental  and risky technologies.  Does the 5-mile-deep BP oil spill ring a bell?  Recall that oil engineers and federal regulators assured us this technology was incredibly sophisticated and safe. Fracking presents the same risky story.

We need move to away from fantasy of energy technological utopias and toward a more pragmatic and sustainable energy strategy – energy conservation and alternative energy. This is where the jobs of the future are, not  in the temporary positions filled mostly by outsiders that fracking might provide.

This is the energy strategy the people of Chatham and Lee are telling me they prefer.  And like my friends Joe Hackney and Bob Atwater, I will listen primarily to people who live in these communities, not the outsiders who just want to exploit us.

–Jeff Starkweather

State fracking study does not support its conclusion

There’s a significant disconnect between state officials who claim fracking can be conducted safely in North Carolina and the evidence, or lack thereof, contained in their own recently released 350-page study of the issue.

I have just read the “N.C. Oil and Gas Study” conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Commerce.  Regarding their findings, I can only say, with apologies to Gertrude Stein, “There’s no there there.”

In fact, the page dedicated to answering the troubling question of how to protect the rights of rural landowners is actually blank, except for one sentence. It states: “This section has not yet been provided by the Department of Justice.”

Never mind that the industry has already leased a significant amount of land in Lee county without any regulatory protections in place.   The blank page in the report says it all: It’s as if someone expects answers to fall out of the sky at some convenient point in the future, apparently after the state legislature decides to make fracking legal in North Carolina.

What’s more, on the environmental safety questions, the report shows that DENR, like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, does not have sufficient information at this stage about the use of this new technology to make any claims about its safety.

Yet, despite these inconvenient information gaps, the report concludes: “DENR believes hydraulic fracturing can be done safely as long as the right protections are in place.”

The problem is,  DENR did not provide the scientific evidence required to support this belief. As this report acknowledged, “[T]his analysis is constrained by the limited information available at this time.”

I thought DENR was a fact-based, not a “belief-based,” organization. EPA, with considerably more scientific resources at its disposal, will not even complete its study of just one issue regarding fracking – water quality – until 2014. Yet with $100,000 spent over a few months of internet “research,” DENR is willing to express its “belief” about areas the EPA has yet to address.

I recall House Speaker Thom Tillis responding to my question about fracking at a forum in Pittsboro, saying that he was open to hearing “the business case” for or against fracking.  Yet, the Department of Commerce, in its section of the state report, was not able to make a case one way or the other.

The report’s economics review section reads:  This analysis is not intended to indicate a position by the North Carolina Department of Commerce (Commerce) for or against…”

Maybe I’m missing something, but I thought the whole point of this study was to determine whether it was prudent for the state to authorize hydraulic fracturing, based on conclusions about likely economic, environmental and health impacts.

The problem, of course, as Commerce concluded, is: “Until the industry is more developed, and economic and multiplier relationships are better represented in the data, model outputs will not be robust.”  In other words, they do not have enough information to predict economic impacts.

At best, Commerce projected that fracking might result in an additional 858 jobs statewide after six years. That’s not much of an economic benefit considering the unknown potential economic costs. In addition to the concerns about groundwater pollution, the other unknowns not taken up in the study include impacts on competing industries (such as local farms, wineries and other tourist attractions) and state and local costs for impacts to other infrastructure (especially roads) and services (law enforcement, schools, etc.).

I appreciate the hard work DENR and Commerce employees put into this rushed and underfinanced study. But it’s an affront to all North Carolinians that the objective contents of the study were ignored or distorted to reach an unsupported conclusion.

The only real conclusion one can draw from this study is that we still don’t know enough about the true economic, environmental and health costs to authorize hydraulic fracturing for gas anywhere in North Carolina.

–Jeff Starkweather, prepared for DENR Public Hearing on Fracking Study, March 20, 2012 in Sanford.

Candidate kicks off campaign March 4

From the Chatham News Record, March 1, 2012:

Jeff Starkweather is officially launching his campaign for the open seat in NC House District 54 with a free, public kick-off party on Sunday March 4, from 4 to 7 pm in Pittsboro. The festivities are free and open to the public and will feature live music, light refreshments and a chance to exchange ideas with the candidate. The location is 697 Hillsboro Street, the former Pittsboro Chevrolet showroom just north of Chatham Mills.

Starkweather, a long-time community advocate and retired newspaper publisher and attorney in Pittsboro is running in the May 8 Democratic primary. The new district covers all of Chatham County and a portion of the Sanford area in Lee County.

“We’ve been so fortunate to have Joe Hackney and Bob Atwater fighting for our vital needs over the years,” Starkweather said. “It will take many strong advocates working together to fill their big shoes when they step down from their legislative posts at the end of the year. But I am eager and ready to do my part, and I will work tirelessly for our district and our state.

“I spent my entire career fighting for fair treatment for all people and communities,” he said.  “Now I want to bring fairness and civic responsibility back into the public debate.

“We need to strengthen our public schools from pre-K through community college and university levels  — not starve them,” he said.

“We need to work strategically to support local businesses and attract clean industries — not simply wait for the jobs to show up. And we need to protect the natural environment that makes our state a stellar place to live and work, considered one of the best locations in the nation,” he said.

“Above all, we need to restore the promise of upward mobility for all,” he said. “The American Dream is not just for the privileged few.”

“If we do these things by working with each other– not against each other– our economy and our democracy will thrive again now and for future generations.”

It’s A Party: Campaign Kick-Off March 4

You’re invited to help the Jeff Starkweather for State House campaign blast off in style.

We’re having an open-house party on Sunday March 4 from 4  to 7 pm at the former Pittsboro Chevrolet showroom, 697 Hillsboro Street. That’s on US 15-501 just north of Chatham Mills in Pittsboro.

Everyone is welcome. Admission is free and donations to the campaign are always welcome.

We’ll have plenty of live music and light refreshments.  And there will be time to ask questions and share your ideas for how we can strengthen our community and our state.

Do you want strong schools, good jobs and clean air and water?  I do, too. That’s what we need for an economy that’s built to last.

Are you worried about the rush to authorize hydraulic fracking for shale gas in Chatham and Lee counties? I am, too. Given the fracking track record elsewhere, it seems the environmental and health costs far outweigh any short-term gains.

I hope you’ll stop by on March 4 from 4 to 7.  It’s a chance to see old friends and make some new ones. Feel free to bring friends and family. And spread the word.

Thanks,

Jeff

Learn more about the campaign on our web page, blog and Facebook.

Don’t fast-track fracking in NC

Last week I attended a scientific workshop at Duke University on fracking, along with many concerned local citizens and officials. The evidence presented included new information about toxic water flowback and greenhouse gas emissions, which reinforced my view that the legislature should not try to fast-track fracking in North Carolina as many Republicans seem to want to do. Instead, there should be a moratorium on any legislation to allow fracking until there is sufficient experience and research to show that this technology is safe and will bring more economic and environmental benefits than costs.

I have spoken out on several occasions about the need to be very cautious about fracking, due to ongoing pressures to frack for shale gas in large tracts of Chatham and Lee counties that are part of our new state House district.

As Lisa Sorg of the Independent Weekly wrote last week about the Duke workshop: “If anyone in the General Assembly listened to the scientists at the hydraulic fracturing workshop at Duke… then any pro-fracking legislation should be dead in North Carolina.”

Scientists at the Duke workshop presented new information about the negative impact that flowback from fracking wells can have on local water quality. The flowback contains water, oil, and toxic chemicals, including barium, arsenic, lead and bromide.  Based on undisputed scientific presentations, there does not appear to be a safe way to dispose of or treat this wastewater.  Injecting it back into the ground can contaminate groundwater. Moreover, such deep underground injections can cause earthquakes, as was recently demonstrated in Ohio. Discharging wastewater in nearby rivers and streams has been shown to harm the ecosystem for up to a third of a mile from the discharge point.

At this time there are no cost-effective methods to treat the flowback. Re-use has not been proven effective either and raises concerns about storage and transportation spills and leakages.

A second new scientific finding presented at Duke concerns the impact of fracking on greenhouse gas emissions.  Robert Howarth, professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell, reported that green house gas emissions from shale gas fracking are 40% greater than emissions caused by the extraction of conventional gas and oil. He attributes this to venting of methane gas during drilling and the fact that methane contains about 72 times more greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide that is emitted from oil or coal production.

Susan Christopherson, professor of city and regional Planning at Cornell, reinforced what I had previously heard: There is a serious question whether a fracking resource extraction economy provides more benefits than costs, in part because it produces few jobs for local people.

Finally, I learned that the EPA’s scientific study of the potential impact of fracking on water quality will not be completed until 2012. This study will include existing data, retrospective and prospective case studies of actual fracking operations, water modeling and laboratory studies.

North Carolina should not proceed with any plans for fracking until this study is concluded and then only if it provides evidence that it can be done safely and economically.

–Jeff Starkweather

My Open Letter to Chatham Democratic Women

Reprinted with permission from the Chatham County Democratic Women Newsletter, January 2012.

As a proud long-time member of the Chatham County Democratic Women, I am especially grateful to have this opportunity to tell you why I am running for the new open seat in State House District 54.

As you know, Tea Party Republicans in the N. C. Legislature have been waging a war on women, most notably with legislation to eviscerate women’s right to reproductive choice and freedom. In my view, such attacks on women hurt women, men, children, families and communities — in other words all of us.

Not surprisingly, the  Tea Party is also leading a crusade against the environment: They don‘t believe in climate change, they want to fast-track fracking before we have enough information about its long-term consequences, and they want to loosen environmental regulations on industries that pollute our air, soil and water.

Tea Party legislators have also been working against public education, which is essential for all citizens to have a fair chance to succeed in life. These politicians would rather balance the state budget on the backs of teachers and school children than invest in quality public education from pre-school through community colleges and universities.

In fact, the Tea Party crowd  in Raleigh seems to have forgotten that many North Carolinians are still out of work.  Instead of focusing on strengthening our schools, environment and infrastructure to attract good jobs, they’ve been hyperventilating about social issues designed to divide and distract us, rather than unite us.

You deserve to have someone in Raleigh from our district who is not afraid to speak out on these and other vital issues.  As a long-time community advocate, I have been speaking truth to power on the local level for years. As a “tell it like it is” newspaper editor and publisher, I promoted more open government and worked hard to give voice to all people, not just the chosen few. As a civil rights attorney, I represented the rights of workers, women, minorities and those with disabilities.

Most recently I have been working to support local businesses and attract good jobs and affordable housing as a board member for the Chatham Economic Development Corporation and Triangle South Workforce Development and a former chair for the Chatham Affordable Housing Advisory Board.

I believe that is why local Democratic leaders drafted me for this race. And that is why I would be honored to earn your support and your vote, so that we can work together on these issues in Raleigh and here at home.

Finally, I have to confess that I have a very personal reason to take the long view in running for legislative office. I want to make a difference on the issues that will affect the next generation, including my granddaughters right here in Chatham.

Thanks for all that you do for our community. Let’s keep on.

–Jeff Starkweather