Street party/rally celebrates the passage of the N.C. Clean Smokestacks Act

On June 29, nine days after Gov. Mike Easley signed the Clean Smokestacks Act into law, supporters gathered at Asheville’s City/County Plaza to celebrate the legislation –which requires North Carolina utility companies to significantly lower emissions at coal-fired power plants — and to call for similar action in other states.

Among the speakers at the event was state Sen. Steve Metcalf, one of the sponsors of the legislation. Standing under a large banner that read, “It’s time for Clean Smokestacks EVERYWHERE!”, Metcalf thanked all those who worked to get the Act passed. He credited the grassroots effort with helping to compel the General Assembly to sign the Clean Smokestacks bill into law. He urged that the effort continue, noting that pollution is still coming from other states.

Health specialist Dr. James Biddle noted, “The Clean Smokestacks Act is the shot heard around the world. This is really big. I don’t think people realize yet how big this is. It’s going to serve as a model for other states to follow.”

Also addressing the crowd were a variety of local and regional environmental leaders, including Avram Friedman, founder and executive director of the Canary Coalition; Michael Shore, southeast coordinator of Environmental Defense; Stephen Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy; Eva Ritchey of Citizens for Transportation Planning, and Hope Taylor, executive director of Clean Water for North Carolina. After the speakers’ presentations, live music by Ben Jammin, The David Gaynes Band and more rounded out the celebration — along with the stylings of tap dancer Joe Maloy and poetry/Native American flute music by Thomas Rain Crowe.

“The recurring theme throughout the night was that a great landmark has been achieved with the passage of the North Carolina Clean Smokestacks Act,” said Friedman after the event. “Now let’s use this momentum to achieve similar laws in other states and in the federal government. Those who have doubted that an individual’s actions can make a difference should be inspired by the series of events that lead to the passage of [the act]. It was a people’s effort all the way.

“When we started the process of introducing the Clean Smokestacks plan … there weren’t too many lawmakers on our side,” Friedman continued. “But common sense and a tidal wave of public opinion changed the political landscape. That’s what will happen on the federal level, too. It may take a little bit longer, but we’ll win this battle eventually. The sooner people join in the effort, the sooner it will happen. And many people are beginning to wake up to this reality and are joining the effort.”

Several pieces of legislation similar to the Clean Smokestacks Act have recently been introduced in Congress, Friedman pointed out — including the Jeffords and Leahy bills in the Senate, and the Waxman and Allen bills in the House, all of which would mandate higher standards for grandfathered coal-burning power plants nation wide. Additionally, Rep. Charles Taylor has introduced another bill that would further regulate the coal plants owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“The stronger of these proposed measures is the Allen/Leahy concept,” explained Friedman. “These bills would completely ban the practice of pollution credit trading [a regulatory concept that allows air pollution sources to voluntarily reduce their emissions beyond required levels in return for the ability to sell the reductions achieved to others]. Trading hurts our region more than any other, because of the abundance of older plants in the Southeast. It’s mostly the power producers in this region that buy the credits to avoid the expense of actually cleaning up the coal plants. So we have become a ‘hotspot’ of dense pollution caused by the trading system.”

For more information about clean air issues in WNC, call the Canary Coalition toll-free at 1-866-4CANARY or visit their Web site (

Pritchard Park festival benefits arts outreach program

It could be argued that self-expression is as essential to life as air or water — that without it, our souls begin to wither and we lose our connection with the divine. But however necessary, self-expression can sometimes seem like a luxury, available only to those with the time and money to pay for expensive classes or workshops.

Not necessarily so. Thanks to Arts2People, a local nonprofit arts outreach organization, classes in expressive arts such as dance, drama, music, creative writing and visual arts are now available to many who would otherwise not have access to them. The organization offers classes to the general public on a sliding fee scale, and at no cost to organizations serving the elderly, battered and displaced women, the homeless, at-risk youth and the disabled.

To help support their outreach projects, Arts2People is holding a fundraising festival in downtown Asheville’s Pritchard Park on Saturday, July 13, from 2 to 10 p.m. The festival will feature live music, a kid’s activity area (with crafts and face painting), food and craft vendors, a silent auction and a raffle.

Entertainment will be provided by such local musicians as Cary Fridley of Freighthoppers fame — performing with her all-female old-time band, Devilish Mary — as well as with roots blues band Lowdown Travelers, Blue Rags alum Scott Sharpe on steel guitar with The Hula Cats, the traditional Irish group Half Nine, and others.

For more information, call Arts2People at 254-6006 or visit its Web site (

Brevard blows up!

Skateboarding is fast becoming a big business. If you don’t think so, consider this: Five skateboard parks now exist in Western North Carolina alone. This month, four of the five parks are holding contests, the first of which took place on June 29 at the newly built Zero Gravity Skatepark (1800 Old Hendersonville Highway) in Brevard.

The park hosted skaters from all over the state to compete in five divisions: beginner, intermediate, advanced, sponsored and best trick. Some 200 participants and spectators from the local area and beyond packed the 12,000-square-foot warehouse.

Announcer Chris Dow from Flipside board shop in Asheville, accompanied by DJs Macon Beats and Football, kicked the competition off at noon. Chelsey Rogers from Asheville took first place in the beginner’s division, while Camp Carolina employee and Sydney, Australia, resident Virginia Maddock took top intermediate honors.

In the highly-anticipated advanced division, Hendersonville’s own Jason Smith beat out the rest of the pack to take the first-place crown. And while shops from all over North and South Carolina sent riders to compete in the sponsored portion of the program, Asheville native Matt “Atreu” Mercer (Concussion Skatepark team rider and Food Lion Skatepark employee) grabbed the win.

In the best trick competition, boarders attempt to pull off their best, craziest, most death-defying feats. The result: a three way tie between Mercer (switch foot board slide), Ray Goff (Huge Ollie off the fly box), and Kevin Shelton (F/S invert, Huge Transfer).

Zero Gravity Manager Mike Hosey concluded: “It was a lot of fun, and the turnout was really good for our first contest.”

Four other skateboard contests are scheduled for this month, two at Asheville’s Food Lion Skatepark (July 14 and 27), one at Hendersonville’s Concussion Skatepark (July 28) and one at Waynesville’s BP skatepark (July 15).

For more info about the new Zero Gravity Skatepark in Brevard, call (828) 862-6700. For details on Asheville’s Food Lion Skatepark, call 778-8941.

Southern “girls” rock the boat

If group discussions on such topics as “100 years of Revolutionary Wimmin,” “Queers and Trans Youth in the South,” “Marginalization and Tokenization within the Grrrl Movement,” and “Radical, Southern, and All Fired Up — Where Do We Go From Here?” flip your pickle, then head for the fourth annual Southern Girls Convention in Athens, Ga.

The convention (July 19-21) is an annual grassroots meeting of social-justice activists devoted to empowering women and girls in the South. The focus is on Southern culture, views and stereotypes of the South, and the struggle for social justice.

Each year’s convention is hosted by a different Southern community and facilitated by local organizers. Past conventions have been held in Memphis, Tenn., Louisville, Ky. and Auburn, Ala.

This year’s gathering will be chock full of discussions, workshops and presentations geared toward giving participants the opportunity to share skills and ideas, discuss important issues, organize campaigns, and have fun as a community. Participants themselves organize and facilitate all workshops.

Group discussions at past conventions have covered such topics as fatphobia, abortion rights and access, radical parenting, the criminalization of women, gender bias in schools, sexism in the activist community, peer education for men, and ending violence against women.

Other offerings include the “un-shop” swap meet, a Southern women’s art show, live music and tables for participants and organizations to display information, zines, art and more. The convention also provides the opportunity for hundreds of activists from across the country to meet, network, strategize and organize in their efforts on behalf of social justice.

Participants are encouraged to bring video projects, zines, writing, and anything else they are interested in sharing. All are welcome to attend the convention, including boys, men, transgendered people and activists of all ages.

For more information, visit the convention’s Web site ( or call organizer Natasha Murphy at (706) 543-1846.

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