Environment

Nags Head
Dave DeWitt

Governor Pat McCrory met yesterday in Wilmington with the Coastal Resources Commission. The CRC advises state government on zoning, building, and other issues that affect North Carolina’s 20 coastal counties.

It was the first time the Governor had publicly met with the CRC since the State Legislature overhauled it last year. McCrory and Republican leaders in the General Assembly appointed many new members. Frank Gorham, the current chair, works in the oil and gas industry.

Corporal Simon Irungu and a platoon of armed guards at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya watch over four of the last seven northern white rhinos in existence.
Ami Vitale / http://magazine.nature.org/features/the-price-of-poaching.xml

For indigenous tribes in Kenya, land is everything. 

  Fracking- the process of extracting natural gas from deep below the Earth’s surface- is one of the most hotly debated but least understood practices.  As the state’s politicians weigh the pros and cons of introducing fracking to the North Carolina, experts present their findings. What are the environmental, economic and political factors surrounding this controversial topic?  

A red wolf
Joan Lopez via Flickr/Creative Commons

Wildlife officials are looking into what is believed to be the illegal shooting death of a red wolf in eastern North Carolina. 

State and federal officials announced the investigation in a news release Friday.  They say the radio-collared red wolf was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound last month in Tyrrell County.  It's the third red wolf to die this year from a gunshot. 

The first two deaths happened in January and March.  Seven other red wolves have died of other various reasons ranging from natural causes to being hit by cars.

Black Tip sharks feed on the coast near Cape Lookout.
Shark Attack News

A series of videos and photos show masses of sharks on the North Carolina shoreline. Two videos posted online this week show what appear to be blacktip and/or spinner sharks in a feeding frenzy near Cape Lookout.

The sharks are further ashore than usual, feeding in just a few inches of water.

Nancy Fish, with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said it's a migratory season for fish, which can lead to shark activity closer to shore.

Jennette's Pier
Dave DeWitt

Whether it’s in the mountains or off the coast, North Carolina has plenty of wind. It also has a lot of land, suitable ports, and infrastructure to become a major player in the industry along the east coast.

But that hasn’t happened.

seismic
BOEM

As you are reading this, a ship is very likely miles off the North Carolina coast, mapping the ocean floor. It’s part of a National Science Foundation project that’s using seismic testing, blasting sound waves through the waters.

As early as next spring, the very same controversial process will be used by a different interest: The oil and gas industry will begin looking for places it might want to drill.

This past August, the Obama Administration announced it would begin allowing testing for oil and gas reserves off the Atlantic Coast.

An aerial picture of the Port of Wilmington
Wikipedia

The North Carolina State Ports Authority wants to study the feasibility of deeper water access at the Port of Wilmington. 

SPA officials say the request has gone out to the Army Corps of Engineers. 

Laura Blair works for the state ports authority.  She said there are economic reasons for the study.

“What we know now is that other states, our competition if you will, ports in South Carolina and Georgia even ports in Florida are either studying deepening their channels or are actively deepening their channels now.”

A map shows how various levels of sea-level rise would impact eastern NC.
Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at East Carolina University

  

In 2010, the science panel that advises the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission released a report stating the state should prepare for 39 inches of sea level rise by 2100. 

Duke Energy workers hammered and drilled along the Dan River boardwalk Wednesday morning.
Jeff Tiberii

Duke Energy is putting $10 million toward the improvement of waterways in five Southeastern States. The new Water Resources Fund was introduced Wednesday at multiple news conferences.  Duke has also announced plans to remove coal ash from three unlined dumps in South Carolina. But there is no immediate timetable for such removal in North Carolina. This comes almost eight months after the third largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.

sea level rise
Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at East Carolina University

In 2010, the Science Panel that advises the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission released a report. It said the state could expect a 39-inch sea-level rise by the end of the century. If that came to pass, it would affect billions of dollars of property along the coast.

Map of fall colors
Dr. Howard Neufeld, Michael Denslow / Appalachian State

What weekend should you go to Grandfather Mountain in western North Carolina to see the fall colors at the peak of perfection? There's a map that was created by scientists at Appalachian State that attempts to answer that very question.

Environment NC
Dave DeWitt

Environmental groups are putting pressure on Governor Pat McCrory to do more to clean up coal ash across the state. Environment North Carolina delivered a petition with 40,000 signatures to his office today.

Legislation goes into effect today that directs Duke Energy to clean up coal ash at the four pits deemed to be the highest risk. The law gives Duke 15 years to complete the clean-up.

Environmentalists say that doesn’t go far enough.

National Audubon Society, Meryl Lorenzo

  

Climate change will likely alter the migratory routes and habitats of more than half of the birds in North America, according to new study published by the National Audubon Society.

Wood Duck
Ellerbee Creek Watershed Association

Honking horns, slamming doors and congested streets: these are the sounds and sites of a bustling city. 

A champion tiger shark at a fish rodeo in 1988
Joel Fodrie / UNC IMS

Over the past 30 years, the size of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico has been shrinking. Drastically. Some sharks are 70 percent smaller.

The findings come from the University of Alabama and the University of North Carolina's Institute of Marine Sciences.

Researchers came up with a novel way of gathering the historical data. While there wasn't any academic database that collected such information, local newspapers in the Gulf region have been publishing the results of fishing competitions for years.

seismic testing
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

The days of oil rigs off the coast of the Outer Banks is still many years away, if it ever comes. But the state of North Carolina is already making plans that will allow oil companies to use seismic imaging to search for possible oil reserves.

Donald Van der Vaart, the Energy Policy Advisor with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, told the North Carolina Energy Policy Council that seismic testing was last done off the coast of North Carolina in the 1980s.

The hydraulic fracturing (fracking) water cycle.
Environmental Protection Agency

Big news came out this week about fracking: Duke scientists have found that natural gas wells used in fracking caused contamination in eight drinking water wells in Texas and Pennsylvania.

Photo: A drilling site in northeastern Louisiana.
Daniel Foster via Flickr

A Duke University study exonerates hydraulic fracturing from contaminating drinking water at sites in Pennsylvania and Texas. Instead, researchers blame faulty shale gas wells for leaking methane into the water, sometimes making it flammable.

solar panels
Strata Solar

Duke Energy is investing $500 million in solar power generation in North Carolina.

Three new large-scale solar facilities will be built in Bladen, Wilson, and Duplin Counties. The 65 megawatt facility in Duplin will be the largest solar plant east of the Mississippi.

Due to a state law passed in 2007, Duke and other utilities must source at least 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021.

“We choose solar today because solar is the cheapest renewable energy certificate available to us,” said Duke Energy Vice President Rob Caldwell.

red wolf
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Hank and Betty seem like they’re in a pretty good mood today. It’s stopped raining, and the sun is poised to peak out between the loblolly pines that surround their den. And their caretaker, Kim Wheeler, has brought them a snack.

As the director of the Red Wolf Coalition, Wheeler cares for these two captive red wolves at their enclosure just south of Columbia. She often brings groups of tourists here to see the mating pair and learn more about how the species behaves.

Hofmann Forest
Historical State, NCSU Libraries

A new buyer has been added to the sales agreement for the 78,000-acre Hofmann Forest.

N.C. State University plans to sell two-thirds of the property to an Alabama-based sustainable timber company called Resource Management Service. The remaining third will still go to Hofmann Forest, LLC, which is owned by the Walkers, a prominent farming family in Illinois.

NC State spokesman Brad Bohlander says endowment trustees are happy to have the timber company on board.

Hurricane Arthur
National Weather Service / NOAA

Historically, today marks the peak in the Atlantic hurricane season. 

There have been four named storms so far and three of those were hurricanes.  Hurricane Arthur caused damage to eastern North Carolina when it came ashore along the Outer Banks in July.  

Richard Bandy is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Newport.  He said forecasts for a below normal season are proving accurate. 

On February 2, between 50,000 and 82,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of ash pond water waste were released at Duke Energy’s Dan River Steam Station (pictured above) north of Eden, N.C.
Steven Alexander / USFWS

Governor Pat McCrory says he'll allow a coal ash management plan to become law without his signature.

The governor says Duke Energy needs to take action as soon as possible. It needs to take care of the coal ash that's in ponds across the state. But that doesn't mean the governor is happy with the plan.

"I am letting the bill become law without signing it because there are major deficiencies that need to be corrected," he said in a recorded statement.

hydrilla
Dave DeWitt

A state task force will begin work soon to try to control an invasive plant that threatens the Eno River. Hydrilla was first spotted in the southern U.S. in the 1960s.

Hydrilla came to this country from Asia and is especially concentrated on the eastern side of the Eno River State Park, where the water is wide and slow-moving.

The plants are visible just below the surface of the river, like a giant bright green blanket choking off sunlight to the river’s bottom. The plant is spreading at a rate of about a mile a year, and in twelve years could reach Falls Lake.

Haw River
Haw River Assembly

The City of Burlington will embark on a series of improvements to its wastewater collection system. It’s part of an agreement between the city and various environmental groups. 

Back in January, more than 3.5 million gallons of raw sewage spilled out of a cracked pipe near a wastewater treatment plant and into the Haw River. The Haw River winds through Alamance County and feeds into Jordan Lake, the main source of drinking water for more than a quarter of a million people.

A hog farm in Lyons, Georgia.
Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS

Several environmental groups have filed a federal complaint against the state over hog waste. In a filing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the organizations say North Carolina has failed to enforce rules regulating disposal of hog waste.  

Students at Estes Elementary finishing lunch.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Schools in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have launched a district-wide composting program in their cafeterias. 

The program started on the first day of classes in 15 elementary and middle schools.  Many individual schools in North Carolina have started composting, but few districts have created their own programs. 

Dan Schnitzer, sustainability coordinator for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, says the schools will be able to use some of the compost their students create.

A reduction of emissions from coal-fired plants like this one have helped North Carolina meet federal air quality standards.
eutrophication&hypoxia / Flickr, Creative Commons

North Carolina is meeting a new national standard for reducing particle pollution. 

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has notified Governor Pat McCrory that it will officially designate that the state is in compliance this coming December. 

State air quality experts say particle pollution can reach dangerous levels at any time during the year. 

A map of Duke Energy's 14 coal ash sites and their operational status in 14 energy plants across the state.
Duke Energy

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources plans to fine Duke Energy for groundwater contamination from two coal ash ponds near Wilmington.

State officials decided to fine Duke as they wait for the outcome of legal action against the utility company.

In lawsuits filed last summer, officials say Duke has illegally leaked toxic chemicals like thallium from coal ash ponds.

These are 33 basins across North Carolina full of ash left over from burning coal. Two of these basins are at the L.V. Sutton Electric Plant in New Hanover County.

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