Roy Cooper has been butting into Pat McCrory’s business. Since he started making serious noises about running for governor, the Attorney General has weighed in on contentious issues from voting rights to the coal ash spill. And the Governor is tired of it.

Last week, McCrory warned Cooper to stay out the debate over cleaning up the spill. He’s accusing Cooper of politicizing the environmental disaster. McCrory’s wrong about that. It was already political long before Cooper weighed in.

McCrory and his Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources John Skvarla set the stage for the criticism they’ve received through their hubris. Skvarla has publicly ridiculed the environmental community and they’ve both made it clear that under Democrats, environmental regulations were too heavy-handed. Consequently, they’ve slashed the Division of Water Resources with massive layoffs and by shrinking the staff.

Skvarla said that he wanted to make the agency more business friendly and even talked about an “economic development” function. In addition, McCrory spent 29 years working for the company that owned the coal ash ponds. He kind of looks like Duke’s man in Raleigh.

Finally, Skvarla botched his initial response to spill. Instead of signaling that the administration would do everything possible to get the Dan River cleaned up and protect the state from additional spills, the DENR secretary made it clear that moving coal ash ponds would be too expensive for Duke. And then he walked out of his own press conference.

McCrory can accuse Cooper of being opportunistic, but he didn’t politicize anything. McCrory and company did that. Their arrogance and dismissive response to opponents of their policies opened the door to broad criticism when things fell apart. And in McCroryland, nobody in the administration is ever held responsible for anything.

Cooper is using his position as Attorney General to create a bully pulpit as the voice of the loyal opposition. If the McCrory administration were more competent, Cooper might have a harder time getting away with it. But between the DENR and the Department of Health and Human Services fiascoes, Cooper’s words reflect a widely accepted sentiment. McCrory needs to fix the perception of him and his administration before he can successfully chastise anybody for politicizing a situation.


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