Protect Our Natural Resources

Ray Russell’s Statement on Protecting the Environment in North Carolina

Rhonda and I have lived in the High Country for 27 years, but it does not take 27 years to know what a special place we have in Ashe and Watauga Counties. We are indeed blessed with beautiful landscapes, pristine waters and enviable air quality that have been conserved for us by previous generations. Many people who settled this region were subsistence farmers; they had respect for the land, water, air, plants, and wildlife. They were committed to thrift and were careful stewards of the environment so that future generations could enjoy the unique natural treasures of our High Country home. Conservation of our environment is in our collective DNA. I will continue that stewardship as your State House Representative.

While conserving our natural resources is central to our heritage, significant challenges threaten this tradition of responsible stewardship:

  1. Clean-up of 14 coal ash sites in North Carolina will cost 5 to 10 billion dollars—a staggering cost for a toxic waste problem that will not be resolved until 2029. My opponent in this election, in lockstep with the Republican majority, voted to allow Duke Energy to get away without paying for their toxic coal ash–and instead stuck us with the bill for up to $10 billion dollars. Our legislators need to learn the lesson most of us learned in Kindergarten—If you break it, you clean it up!
  2. The Chemours Company near Fayetteville has been releasing GenX into the Cape Fear River for years tainting drinking water downstream to Wilmington. And airborne GenX has tainted residential wells as far as six and a half miles away. That same legislature refused to fund Gov. Cooper’s request for $14.5 million to empower the Department of Environmental Quality to address the problem or even fully understand the impact.
  3. Because of coal ash and GenX, 100s of people across our state cannot drink the water out of their faucets or even bath in it. We must stand up for our neighbors to the east.
  4. Earlier this year, the federal government moved aggressively to begin drilling of North Carolina’s coast for the first time in over 30 years. Offshore drilling represents a critical threat to our coastal economy. We need a legislature that will stand with Governor Cooper and Attorney General Stein to fight this threat to tourism, communities, and marine life along our coasts.
  5. Closer to home, we must revitalize our support of local stream watch efforts, including helping river keepers and youth groups involved in water and stream monitoring.
  6. But the most pervasive environment threat to our region, our country, and to the world is Climate Change. We are no longer left wondering what the effects might be; we are living in a warmer climate and the effects are here … now. Are you sick of hearing legislators say “Well, I’m not a scientist.”? To that question, I ask, “Why don’t we elect a scientist!?”
    Climate change jeopardizes our ski industry—warmer weather is shortening the ski season and producing huge gaps in what should be prime tourism times.
    Climate change is also a threat to the diverse agricultural interests in the region. Weather extremes are already taking a toll on agriculture in the region. Droughts, warm weather in February and March followed by later freezes, and extreme rain events present new threats to North Carolina’s agricultural interests.
    To make matters worse, the Republican-controlled legislature has cut university funding that would support assist farmers and researchers address issues resulting from a changing climate.
    Our legislature has opposed common sense reforms and rolled back incentives that move our state toward clean and renewable energies. We must change that.
  7. I oppose efforts that threaten air and water like the hydraulic fracturing of shale oil and natural gas in NC. In contrast, my opponent made it a crime to disclose the toxic chemicals used in fracking. Emergency responders can now be forced to sign confidentiality agreements and could face jail time for talking about the chemicals even if chemicals put children in hospitals.

I am honored to have the support of the North Carolina Sierra Club and The League of Conservation Voters. Their work protecting the quality of land, air and water in our entire state is essential to the future prosperity and health of all North Carolinians from Manteo to Beech Mountain. I will always vote to protect our natural resources and to hold violators accountable for damage whenever and wherever it occurs.

Some say that we endanger our economy by standing up for the environment. I say “hogwash”. In fact, the opposite is true… One fast way to bankrupt our state is to ruin our environment. A report published just last week shows that property values along the NC Coast have lost a half-billion dollars because of rising sea levels directly attributable to climate change. How do you think property values are faring where wells are contaminated with GenX, or near coal ash spills, or where homes are engulfed by airborne hog waste? Good stewardship of the environment protects and strengthens our economy.

We need new representation in Raleigh if we are to retake our position as a national leader in renewable energy, energy conservation, water and air quality monitoring, and common sense environmental protections. Protecting the environment will create new jobs in alternative energy and keep our state a healthy and beautiful place to live. What we have in the High Country and across North Carolina is too precious to lose. I am committed to this end. It is our moral obligation to pass down a clean, healthy environment to our children and grandchildren.