NC Reps Reject Woman DEQ Nominee for Not Loving Pipelines Enough

June 3, 2021: One of them used to work for Duke + speaking of Duke, Coach K is headed for the exits + the NCGA thinks you’re lazy + Raleigh wants to give cops more money


1. Republicans Say First Woman Nominated to Head DEQ Is Too Uninformed to Do Job

Yesterday, Sen. Paul Newton and his pals on the Senate Agriculture, Energy, and Environment Committee rejected the nomination of Dionne Delli-Gatti to head the Department of Environmental Quality.

A few facts before moving on:

  • This is the first time a Senate committee has rejected a nominee since Republicans granted themselves the ability to do so—right after Roy Cooper was elected in 2016.

  • Newton is a former Duke Energy exec.

  • Delli-Gatti has been running DEQ since Michael Regan left to join the Biden administration.

  • If confirmed by the full Senate, Delli-Gatti would be the first woman to hold that position.

Newton’s official position is that Delli-Gatti “couldn’t explain the governor’s natural gas strategy and was largely unfamiliar with the MVP Southgate project.”

In her confirmation hearing, Policy Watch reports, Newton asked her: “What’s your position on natural gas?”

“We don’t have an official position,” Delli-Gatti replied during that hearing. “We evaluate each permit on its merits. The need for natural gas is under the North Carolina Utilities Commission.”

“How about you personally?” Newton said then.

“We need to be thoughtful to see what the generation mix is,” Delli-Gatti replied. “We are seeing a lot of commitments from companies to go to net-zero carbon. As we progress, it’s yet to be seen what the best mix is. I don’t have a categorical view of ‘no natural gas.’”

But the real issue, it seems, is that pipeline, which would run through Alamance and Rockingham Counties.

Under former Secretary Michael Regan, DEQ denied a water quality permit for the project over concerns that the main MVP running through Virginia would not be built. That segment of the pipeline has been held up by permitting and legal challenges in Virginia.

MVP Southgate appealed the denial. A federal court determined that DEQ acted within its authority to do so, but needed to better explain its rationale. DEQ did so and denied the permit on April 29, under Delli-Gatti’s tenure.

During Delli-Gatti’s initial hearing, lawmakers spent two hours cross-examining her, especially on energy issues. She told Newton in response to questions about the MVP that she has “no position on it.”

So here’s the thing: After Delli-Gatti’s confirmation hearing, Newton’s committee invited representatives from the energy industry to provide testimony—in secret—as they work on an energy bill.

  • “The so-called ‘secret energy bill’ is legislation that is reportedly being hammered out by a few lawmakers and the major utilities. It is widely referred to as the ‘secret energy bill’ because those on the committee have agreed to keep all discussions confidential; anyone leaking information could be removed from the committee.” (PW)

  • Apparently, the utilities companies spoke about the need for more pipelines and natural gas production.

  • All of a sudden, Newton had major concerns with Delli-Gatti’s “cursory knowledge” of the pipeline project DEQ had rejected, which he called the “single most important infrastructure project in North Carolina.” (N&O)

  • And because the Republicans’ only objection was to her alleged unfamiliarity—no other reason, perish the thought—committee chairman Sen. Chuck Edwards refused to allow Sen. Mike Woodard to ask her any more questions.

Her nomination will go to the full Senate regardless.

2. NCGA Passes Back-to-Work Bonuses It Can’t Give Out

Speaking of Chuck Edwards, he seems to think lots of North Carolina folks have gotten lazy over the last year.

  • “Let’s face it, humans are a creature of habit. And we’ve created a habit over the last 14 months that many folks can just simply get by, and it’s easier to not work than it is to work,” Edwards said at a press conference yesterday. (WRAL)

Edwards was touting the bill he sponsored, which the Senate had just passed, that would pay unemployed people as much as $1,500 to get a job and keep it for two months. On the surface, it seems like a government subsidy to the loafing class. But it’s more a substitute for raising the minimum wage—and a handout to businesses that pay sub-poverty wages, getting them over the hump until federal unemployment supplements expire on Sept. 6.

  • As WRAL notes: “Summer tourism season is already underway, and restaurants and hotels are struggling to find enough staff to serve the public.”

  • What WRAL doesn’t note, because no one talks to the people who aren’t jumping to work crap jobs for low pay when they have politicians who will speak for them:

If employers want workers to return to flipping burgers for possibly unvaccinated customers in the midst of the greatest public health crisis in America’s history, then they should pay them more. If the government is beating the private sector in terms of providing a livable wage, that is a fault of business owners, who, in their infinite self-regard, seem to think that workers should be grateful for whatever crummy, sub-subsistence job they manage to get. (New Republic)

If TNR is too hippie for you, here’s Daniel Alpert, a senior fellow in macroeconomics and finance at Cornell Law School and founding managing partner of Westwood Capital (NYT):

The majority of the jobs that aren’t back to prepandemic work force levels are very low-income jobs; they are what the U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index, which I cocreated, calls low-quality jobs. Through March of this year, most of the private sector jobs eliminated during the pandemic that haven’t been restored are production and “nonsupervisory” jobs that offered weekly pay averaging less than $750 prepandemic. There are more than 45 million low-paying jobs like these, constituting roughly 43 percent of all production and nonsupervisory jobs in the country. This is not about a mere, unfortunate corner of the jobs market.

Twenty-three million of these jobs paid under $500 per week prepandemic: That’s $26,000 per year. Not only are the wages low: Many of these jobs offer well below 30 hours of work per week.

In fairness, WRAL’s story does point out that:

  • The state’s unemployment benefits suck, and people already have to prove they’re looking for work to keep the checks coming.

  • Federal benefits can end if you turn down a job.

  • The pandemic burden has largely fallen on women, in large part because North Carolina has subpar access to childcare.

Anyway, regardless of whether it’s a good idea, there’s a logistical snag: the General Assembly wants to pay for it out of American Rescue Plan money. But the American Rescue Plan specifically says they can’t use those funds for bonuses.

  • Edwards asked Congress to change the law. Since Democrats run DC and benefits expire in three months, that’s unlikely at best.

  • U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, a member of North Carolina’s Sedition Caucus who is running for Senate, has proposed a bill to replace the federal benefits with bonuses. Also not happening.

So that part of the bill is DOA. It has some other provisions that would go into effect if Governor Cooper signs it, however: job seekers would be required to accept an interview if one is offered and take a drug test if required by the employer.

  • The House, meanwhile, is moving a bill that would require the state to stop accepting the federal supplements. It, too, will be vetoed.

3. Coach K Calls It Quits

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will retire at the end of next season, according to lots of sources.

From the N&O:

Krzyzewski is the second-longest tenured coach in NCAA Division I, having led the Blue Devils’ program since being hired in 1980. He will end his career as the winningest men’s basketball coach in Division I history with 1,170 wins and counting. He also led Duke to national titles in 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010 and 2015.

Naming his successor will be considered the first major hire for newly promoted athletic director Nina King, who was just named Kevin White’s replacement last month.

4. Raleigh Will Give Its Cops More Money

About 50 people turned up outside City Hall on Tuesday night to protest Raleigh’s proposed budget, though the meeting was virtual and none of the council members was physically present. Another couple of dozen called in, each getting a minute—and only a minute—to lodge their criticism of the $5 million increase in the proposed Raleigh Police Department budget.

  • The additional money would fund seven new positions to police parks and greenways, as well as pay into the retirement system.

  • The protesters want the council to defund RPD, which is currently taking heat over allegations that a detective faked drug evidence. My friends, that ain’t happening.

  • They’d also like the city to shift a chunk of change into an alternative to policing, like Durham’s new Community Safety Department. Raleigh has a version of that, though it’s under RPD’s auspices and much smaller. The program is called ACORNS. Outgoing Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown shifted some money in her budget to create it, but the city couldn’t tell me how much yesterday.

  • The city is raising property taxes by about 5%, mostly to pay for last year’s affordable housing bond, but also for parks.

5. In Israel, Netanyahu Is Probably Finished

Sending you on your way with some international news: After limping through four governments in two years and battling corruption charges, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be on his way out.

A diverse group of opposition lawmakers notified Israeli President Reuven Rivlin Wednesday that they have agreed on the terms of a power-sharing government that would replace Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister for the first time in 12 years.

The step sets up a vote on the arrangement by Israel's full parliament, probably within a week to 12 days.

Final details of the plan, hashed out in marathon negotiations over the last several days, remained unclear. But according to local media, former defense minister Naftali Bennett will replace Netanyahu, his former mentor, as prime minister for a fixed term, possibly two years, before the top job is taken over by centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid. …

The governing coalition now poised to take power in Israel is an ideological mix—many would say mess—of factions that range from religiously oriented advocates of Jewish settlements in the West Bank to secular supporters of an independent Palestinian state.

But there is one thing they all agree on: It is time for Benjamin Netanyahu to go.

Long story short: Even many of Netanyahu’s allies think he’s an authoritarian nutcase.

  • “‘No one believes a word he says. Why would they?’ said Jonathan Rynhold, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University. ‘Part of it is personal with these people who know him. And part of it is that all of them have come to believe that Mr. Netanyahu has put his personal interests ahead of the interests of the State of Israel because he can no longer distinguish between the two.’”

  • His die-hards will try to disrupt the new coalition in hopes of keeping him in power anyway. Nothing is set in stone yet.