McCrory should step lightly on the environment

McCrory should step lightly on the environment

- in Progressive Voices

A recent poll commissioned by the N.C. Coastal Federation measures the degrees to which people who voted for Gov. Pat McCrory value and use our state’s natural environment and whether or not they will vote for him again if based upon his environmental protection track record.

The poll found that a sizable majority of all voters, including those who cast their support to elect the new governor, thinks it’s prudent to balance economic development with environmental protection. Most McCrory voters think the new governor currently places more or equal importance on economic development and environmental protection. Only 24 percent of McCrory voters stay they will not care about his track record on the environment as a factor in how they cast their vote in four years.

Even the most avid environmentalists aren’t naive enough to believe that McCrory’s track record on the environment will determine how a majority of people will cast their votes in 2016. However, the poll does indicate that the environment matters to voters and that a small but still significant percentage of McCrory voters could swing to supporting his future opponent over environmental issues. This means that if the next election is closely contested, McCrory can’t afford to be labeled with a reputation of running roughshod over our state’s beautiful and productive natural resources.

To avoid getting a bad environmental rap, the governor is going to have to steer very carefully through treacherous currents of anti-environment agendas floating around the N.C. General Assembly these days. If he doesn’t work hard to moderate these agendas, McCrory may end up signing some very bad environmental laws that define his environmental record.

McCrory will stand for re-election in a statewide vote. A strong challenger could easily give him a run for his money. Keep in mind that in the last election, the 13 democratic candidates for Congress in North Carolina received 81,000 more votes in total than their 13 Republican challengers, even though only four Democrats won their seats. Gerrymandered districts that favor candidates don’t help in statewide elections.

Pat McCrory is a smart politician, and he is no doubt very aware that he can’t afford to alienate even small percentages of his voters that he will need again to be re-elected and become only the second Republican governor to serve two terms in office in N.C. Given that his political base is concerned about protecting and restoring the state’s environment, let’s hope he’ll step out and distinguish himself as an environmental leader.

He has good company. McCrory is the third Republican governor to be elected to the office after Reconstruction and the sixth overall. Two of his most recent Republican predecessors both did many good things for the state’s environment. Gov. James Holshouser helped enact the Coastal Area Management Act in 1974 and got the program started on a strong footing. The list of environmental accomplishments during Gov. Jim Martin’s two terms is impressive as well, including new coastal stormwater regulations, marina siting rules and the designation of 10 percent of coastal estuaries as Outstanding Resource Waters.

The N.C. Coastal Federation is ready to work with the new administration to advance the effectiveness and efficiency of environmental safeguards for our coast. We will work hard to inform the public of the good, bad and the ugly as it takes place.

Todd Miller is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation