Environment and Renewable Energy

"Of all the questions which can come before this nation, there is none which compares in importance with the central task of leaving this land better land for our descendants than it is for us. Conservation is a great moral issue." ~ Teddy Roosevelt

The care with which we steward the natural resources that sustain us says a lot about who we are as a society. Decisions impacting the air we breathe, water we drink and land that nourishes our bodies and spirits will have lasting impacts long beyond our lifespans. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration and the NC GOP are taking us in the wrong direction, abandoning partnerships that are essential to combating climate change and jeopardizing our edge in clean energy technologies. Strong, thoughtful leadership at the national and state levels is imperative to counter this disturbing trend.

I support Governor Cooper’s decision to fight the Trump administration and protect the North Carolina coast from offshore oil drilling. Governor Cooper is also wise to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, seventeen states that have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. By establishing ourselves as an innovative leader in clean energy in 2007 with smart policies such as the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS), North Carolina has created more than 34,000 new clean energy jobs and is second in the nation for solar energy production. We need to support similar sound energy policies that serve long-term emission reduction goals, as well as protect our water, air and land for each North Carolinian today and in the future.  As legislators, we should look out for our State’s economy and our natural resources, not allow polluters to pursue maximum profits while they wreak havoc with impunity. 

I believe that sound environmental policy is built on four pillars:

  • Support and encouragement of voluntary, market-driven environmentally-friendly actions by businesses;
  • Reasonable regulation that does not impede sound business practices, but is science-based, preempts hazardous outcomes and ensures accountability of polluters; 
  • Strategic investment of state funds, including incentives for development of multiple renewable energy sources, restoration of funding for state conservation trust funds, state matching funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects to enable local governments to tap into significant federal grants, electric car infrastructure, and energy efficient school and transit buses; and
  • Access to human and technical resources including support for the expertise of our Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), more effective leadership on the various commissions that oversee our utilities and energy (not political appointees with a profit motive), and partnerships with universities, businesses and nonprofits that are innovating ahead of many governmental leaders. 

If we get this wrong, the risks are enormous with devastating consequences, both immediate and long-term. We’ve seen drinking water in many North Carolina communities severely compromised by coal ash spills and chemical discharges. Our own Catawba River, Lake Norman, Mountain Island Lake and Lake Wylie are vital assets, and we must be vigilant about protecting them. Our state is well positioned to be a leader in solar and wind technologies, yet when the GOP took over the NCGA, they reduced incentives for solar energy and placed a moratorium on wind energy. Fortunately, as we saw with the innovative adoption of REPS in 2007, we do not need to choose between a strong economy and smart environmental policies. Our decision to be a leader on solar has provided a huge payoff all these years later. In fact, clean energy has already generated about $6.4 billion in economic activity statewide. And our state’s natural beauty drives a $23 billion tourist industry. It’s not either/or - we should choose both. Smart environmental policies are smart economic policies.

Elected leaders bear great responsibility to ensure that North Carolina’s natural resources support the health and well-being of our citizens and that our economy is one that looks forward rather than backward. As your State Senator, I view this responsibility as both an exciting opportunity and a moral imperative.