Barring a coup d’etat, Roy Cooper has ejected Pat McCrory from the governor’s mansion. McCrory can spend the rest of his working life as a Duke Energy lobbyist. Which brings us to the topic of this post. One of Cooper’s top tasks will be to reverse his predecessor’s disastrous anti-environment legacy.
Because Republicans still dominate the legislature, repairing our environment is easier said than done. The legislative avenue is largely closed off (not entirely–more on that in a minute). Yet the nature of the administrative state gives Cooper multiple tools for protecting our environment without Phil Berger’s help.
The most consequential step is to appoint good faith, pro-environment regulators. Under McCrory, the top levels of that department became an institutional oxymoron: Environmental officials who saw the environment as the enemy. Cooper must select as political appointees people with good intentions and expertise, who know what they are doing. Appointing Dan Besse* as Secretary would send a powerful message to employees that their work is valued.
Continuing on the appointment side, Cooper can restaff McCrory’s Energy Policy Council with clean-energy supporters. The EPC is an independent board that develops a comprehensive energy plan for the state and makes recommendations. For most of its short history, the Council has concerned itself with shilling for polluters. But personnel is policy, and Cooper can shift the Council’s dynamic through that process.
The General Assembly will remain focused on so-called “Regulatory Reform.” Cooper can and must veto these bills. But not all hope is lost. There is a bipartisan bill called the Energy Freedom Act, which would greatly expand opportunities for solar deployment statewide. Cooper should place it near the top of his legislative agenda.
Our ecosystems have been here a long time. They are our hosts and our masters, and we owe them great respect. McCrory failed in this regard. The legacy of his administration is destructive, stubborn, yet possible for Roy Cooper to fix.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.