Over the years, Droz' faith in the sort of traditional and mainstream environmental groups that he had hoped to work with began to wane. He parted ways with the Sierra Club, he said, when they failed to take "science-based positions on important environmental matters."
Fast forward to today: Most notable – or perhaps, notorious – among Droz' legislative accomplishments was the passage of North Carolina House Bill 819, the sea-level rise bill. The law prevents until 2016 any regulatory changes based on sea-level rise predictions. It also will force the North Carolina Coastal Commission to revisit a 2010 report in which it predicted a 39-inch sea-level rise by 2100.
"If I hadn't done what I'd done," Droz said, "there wouldn't have been an H819."
That claim is difficult to verify. But Droz' work on the bill did have one very public impact: It put the scientific "debate" on sea-level rise in headlines nationwide. Of 22 local and national reports on the debate analyzed by the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, eight contrasted the claims of "sea-level skeptics" such as NC-20, against the work of career scientists "with no clear explanation of who might be right."
Droz is the former science advisor for NC-20, a coalition of coastal communities pushing economic development.
Taking on the 'dog and pony show'
NC-20 found an ally in Droz – an outspoken advocate desiring to take on the "dog and pony show" put on as the North Carolina Coastal Commission trumpeted its sea-level rise report.
For Birkland, that makes sense. Developers especially have an interest in preventing any regulation resulting from new sea-level rise predictions, Birkland said, as it might impede or drive up the cost of building along the coast.
Tom Thompson, the chair of NC-20, had only praise for Droz and his efforts. Today, however, Droz views the group through the same distrustful lens with which he now sees other former allies like the Sierra Club. When NC-20 began to make a push for wind-farm development, Droz said he realized that the group's proclaimed devotion to science was more of a smokescreen than any sort of deeply held conviction
He split with the organization.
Hustle, activism and contacts
Droz downplays his knack for getting face time in front of lawmakers. But in many ways his ability to make his voice heard is a deft combination of activism, contacts and old-fashioned hustle.
One such example is State Rep. George Cleveland, a Republican from Onslow County on the North Carolina coast.
A subscriber to Droz' monthly newsletter – which covers mostly local and national energy legislation – suggested to him that the five-term lawmaker shared many of Droz' interests. Droz immediately fired off an e-mail to Cleveland and soon had an invitation to meet the legislator at Cleveland's Jacksonville, N.C., home.
Cleveland sits on a number of influential committees – agriculture, education, government – and serves as vice chair on both appropriations and transportation. In an interview, Cleveland said he found Droz to be a reliable source of environmental information, although the lawmaker acknowledged that he does not have the scientific expertise necessary to back up all of Droz' claims.
But Cleveland doesn't think verification is really necessary. Much of the debate over climate science is "part of a political game," Cleveland said, that "isn't based on sound science…and generates little industries that get a lot of money shoveled to them through preferential treatment."