MECK ENDS CONTRACT WITH LATTA PLANTATION OVERSEERS: Mecklenburg County is not renewing its contract with the nonprofit that manages Historic Latta Plantation, after a controversial Juneteenth program planned for the Huntersville site sparked a social media uproar last week. Lee Jones, Mecklenburg’s Park and Recreation director, told county commissioners Tuesday evening the annual agreement will end June 30. But the future use of the site remains unclear, and the county is still urging the plantation to rethink upcoming summer programming for children about training to be like young Confederate soldiers and southern belles, Jones said. “The outrage in the community is real,” said County Commissioner Mark Jerrell, who called the possibility of confederate camps a “trauma-causing event.”
HUGE REVENUE SURPLUS PROJECTED FOR NC, BUT DON'T EXPECT GOP TO SPEND IT: North Carolina's resurgent post-pandemic economy could put an additional $6.5 billion over the next two years into state government coffers already swollen with cash, state economists said Tuesday. Such an extraordinary windfall, unplanned for just four months ago, will bring with it more fiscal decisions for Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper about how to spend, save, raise employee pay or cut taxes. Revenue collections for the year ending June 30 will be $1.9 billion more than was anticipated in February alone, according to a consensus forecast from Cooper's state budget office and the legislature's fiscal research office. This means the state should collect $29.5 billion by the end of the month — 23% higher than what was collected last year as the state fell into a COVID-19 recession caused by shuttered businesses and lockdowns. The state is on track to spend just under $25 billion this year.
REPUBLICAN ENERGY BILL PUSHES NATURAL GAS OVER COAL, GIVING MVP PIPELINE MOMENTUM: Republican lawmakers unveiled energy legislation Tuesday, drafted for months in secret with industry representatives, that would hasten North Carolina’s transition away from coal power plants. The bill urges Duke Energy, the state’s largest utility and a party to the closed-door discussions, to replace the state’s largest existing coal plant with gas-powered generation. That project would likely require utilities and regulators to advance the now-stalled MVP-Southgate pipeline, according to a summary of the legislation obtained by The News & Observer. While reducing coal plants would bring climate and health benefits with lower emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, the legislation could also come at the cost of incentivizing state regulators to permit the highly controversial pipeline amid concerns about the environmental impact of its construction. The bill touts an “all of the above” approach to replacing coal, with natural gas, nuclear and solar alternatives. In recent weeks, legislative Republicans raised alarms about the state’s energy infrastructure and its dependence on the Transco Pipeline as its sole source of natural gas.
BIDEN-PUTIN SUMMIT WILL LIKELY ADDRESS RUSSIAN HACKING AND OTHER SECURITY ISSUES: President Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are meeting Wednesday at a historic lakeside villa in Geneva, as relations between their countries are at their lowest point in 30 years. Both the White House and the Kremlin have attempted to temper expectations and said not to expect any breakthroughs from the meeting. Some issues expected to be covered include recent cyberattacks that the United States has said originated from Russia, arms control, human rights and climate change. Biden said Washington wants “a stable, predictable relationship” with Moscow. He proposed the meeting to Putin in April, after imposing new sanctions on Russia for the SolarWinds hack on various federal agencies. Parmelin welcomed both leaders to Geneva, calling it “the city of peace.” “I wish you both presidents a fruitful dialogue in the interests of your two countries and the world," Parmelin said. Biden and Putin then shook hands and ignored shouted questions from reporters before heading inside. At his last meeting with a U.S. president, in 2018 with Donald Trump in Helsinki, Putin was 45 minutes tardy. That could be considered a compliment to Trump; in 2013, Putin was three hours late for a meeting with then-Secretary of State John F. Kerry in Moscow. German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds the record, kept waiting more than four hours for a meeting with Putin in 2014.
TRUMP JUDGE BLOCKS BIDEN'S ATTEMPT TO STOP OIL & GAS LEASES ON FEDERAL LAND: A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, in the first major legal roadblock for President Biden’s quest to cut fossil fuel pollution and conserve public lands. Judge Terry A. Doughty of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday against the administration, saying that the power to pause offshore oil and gas leases “lies solely with Congress” because it was the legislative branch that originally made federal lands and waters available for leasing. Judge Doughty also ruled that 13 states that are suing the administration over its temporary halt to new leases “have made a showing that there is a substantial likelihood that President Biden exceeded his powers.” Jeff Landry, the Republican attorney general of Louisiana and attorneys general from 12 other states, all Republicans, filed suit in March to lift the White House executive order that temporarily halted new drilling leases on federal lands and waters. Mr. Biden had signed the order during his first week in office in January, saying he wanted a pause in order to conduct a comprehensive review of the program. Judge Doughty ruled that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and her agency “are hereby enjoined and restrained from implementing the pause of new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters.” until the states’ legal case against the administration is decided. He wrote that the pause on new leasing should end nationwide and noted that such sweeping preliminary injunctions against federal actions were exceedingly rare. But the judge, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, concluded that the 13 states had demonstrated that their economies could be irreparably harmed by the pause on drilling.