Civitas Review

5 Key Factors on Fracking Rules


If you want a more accurate picture of energy development in NC than the mainstream media provide, check out this story in NC Capitol Connection.

Let’s look at five key factors.

  1. Is NC rushing headfirst into hydraulic fracturing?

The opposite is true: the Tar Heel State has dragged its feet on the process, also known as fracking. States such as North Dakota and Pennsylvania developed their shale resources years ago and have raked in billions from energy development, while NC has dawdled.

  1. Is the current rules process hurried?

Some media reports imply the Rules Review Commission is going too fast on approving rules. Let’s look at the process, rather than trying to set some arbitrary time scheme. For example, discussion on just open-air pits garnered 2,800 comments. There has been extensive debate of the rules. And the General Assembly will then review them again. If the process seems to have moved with more urgency than many government endeavors, that may because many government activities move at a snail’s pace.

  1. Is the fact that 13 rules missed a deadline significant?

In every project, especially in government work, deadlines get missed. The 13 rules will be discussed by the panel in a couple of weeks.

  1. What about three rules that commission counsel Amanda Reeder said might merit more review?

She clearly and frankly stated that as an attorney she was no expert in the field, but that she thought the rules merited further review. It sounds as if she wanted to err on the side of caution.

That’s fine, but discussion of the rules indicated they fell within industry standards. Moreover, two of the rules strengthened precautions. The third increased the length of the permitting process. That if anything would seemingly make the regulations stronger.

  1. Is the commission trying to do away with regulation?

The commission has so far moved 107 new regulations on to the legislature for approval. If all 13 of the added rules are OK’d in January, that means the commission will have put forward 120 new regulations.

To sum up: Beware of the subtle spin the mainstream media put on news, especially topics such as energy development.

NC to Join 32 Other States That Don't Fund Driver's Ed


Wake County school leaders (and likely school leaders across the state) are up in arms about the state's elimination of funding for driver's ed programs.

Wake County school leaders warned Tuesday that the state’s elimination of funding for driver’s education could endanger public safety and will lead to higher costs for parents and taxpayers to fund the required program. After the fiscal year ends in June, the General Assembly plans to phase out the $26 million it now provides for driver’s education. But the state is still requiring school systems to offer the program. The school board made restoration of state funding for driver’s education one of the items for state lawmakers’ consideration when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. “I’m suggesting the legislature honor the bargain struck after the Depression, where the state funds the operation of the schools,” school board member Bill Fletcher said.

Left out of the article, however, was an answer to the question: do other state governments fund drivers ed programs?
The answer: not many.
This 2010 Program Evaluation Division report provides the relevant info:

North Carolina is one of eight states that fully fund driver education; it is the only state which funds the program from its state highway fund and does not have a dedicated revenue source for this purpose. Of the other 42 states, 10 provide partial funding and 32 do not fund their program at all.

Arizona ESAs worth a very close look


I've  written before about Education Savings Accounts (ESA) and why North Carolina ought to consider  developing a program (see here). In June, Florida saw the light and  joined Arizona and became the second state  to offer ESAs. The video talks about the benefits of the Arizona ESA program. ESAs work. They give parents control over their child's education. Best of all, ESAs allow children to attend the school that best fits their needs. ESAs make sense. All the more reason to hope that North Carolina becomes  the third state to offer ESAs.

WCPSS enrollment projections need overhaul


Kids Getting on School Bus

Last week, I published a brief piece titled Wake School Estimates must be double-checked.   As the name implies, it calls for a skeptical eye toward Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) enrollment estimates; which in my judgement  tend to be on the rosy side, almost bordering on unjustifiably optimistic.

That said, this morning’s News and Observer contains an article saying an enrollment shortfall of over 1,000 students could cost WCPSS about $2.4 million in funding.

Predicting K-12 enrollment is a difficult and potentially expensive task. All the more reason why WCPSS estimates need more scrutiny and should come from a neutral, independent source.

BOG Review is much needed


I'd like to add a few different thoughts to Brian Balfour's blogpost on the  BOG Review.

First let's recognize that recent press accounts tell us the Board of Governors review of UNC Centers and Institutes have generated more heat than light. Local student protest groups are hyperventilating and framing the review as a politically generated assault on higher education and minority groups. Our friend Jenna Robinson of the Pope Center for Higher Education has been covering the histrionics and offers her perspective here.

I’ve asked  policy makers to take a closer look at UNC Centers and Institutes on a number of occasions; most recently in June of this year and as far back as May of 2009.

Politically motivated? Former UNC President Erskine Bowles a life-long Democrat even admitted that many of the UNC Centers had outlived the purposes for which they were created.

Do UNC Centers perform valuable research and important community service?  That‘s a question for the Board of Governors to decide.  If they do, the facts will bear that out and advocates will not have difficulty making a persuasive case. The converse will also be true.

I commend the BOG for undertaking a much-needed thorough review of UNC Centers and Institutes.

Many of the institutes are focused on highly specialized research areas (e.g., Center for Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics or the Center for Precision Metrology).  Are we advocating the end of all specialized and pure research? Of course not. Fostering promising research is part of university’s responsibility.  Promising research also attract scholars and dollars and public interest. Maintaining all UNC Centers and Institutes ignores the reality that it is not possible nor desirable to continue to fund all UNC Centers and Institutes at the current levels. If sufficient outside funding cannot be secured to assist with funding many of the institutes and centers — which is how the majority of Centers and Institutes operate — why should taxpayers of North Carolina be asked to foot the bill for efforts that others have refused to support?

It’s a luxury North Carolina cannot afford.