Environment

solar
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

North Carolina solar projects are big winners in the U.S. Department of Agriculture loan guarantees for renewable energy projects. In all, the USDA today awarded $43 million worth of loan guarantees to projects scattered across the country. But North Carolina was the big winner, as seven projects here pulled in more than half the total.

flood maps from 2006 and 2016
North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program

New state maps detailing the risk of coastal flooding show some areas are less flood-prone than previously calculated.

If the updated maps are approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 31,000 properties in coastal North Carolina will have their flood risk classification downgraded.

Pine trees in Chapel Hill, forest,
Laura Candler

New research from N.C. State suggests harvesting wood debris after logging doesn't have a major impact on small animal populations.

Wood pellets made from scraps left behind after clear-cutting are increasingly in demand as biomass, a renewable energy source to fuel power plants in Europe and parts of the United States.

Drought Map as of June 21, 2016.
North Carolin a Drought Monitor

Summer has brought moderate-to-severe drought conditions to 14 counties in the southwest corner of the state.

The area usually sees about an inch of rain per week, but not so this year, according to State Climatologist Rebecca Ward.

New Maps Detail Scope Of NC's Poultry And Hog Industries

Jun 24, 2016
A hog waste lagoon in Beaufort County, NC.
DefMo / Flickr Creative Commons

A coalition of environmental groups released a series of interactive maps documenting thousands of large-scale hog, cattle and poultry farms across North Carolina.  

The maps identify more than 4,000 hog waste lagoons and 14,000 poultry barns. Environmental advocates  say the large amount of waste generated by  confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, poses environmental and public health risks that the state government has failed to properly regulate.

A bill seeks to protect air space for military exercises by prohibiting wind farms.
Paulo Valdivieso / Flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers in the state Senate have passed a bill that would prohibit wind farms from being built in most of central and eastern North Carolina. Bill sponsor Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) says the measure protects airspace the state's military bases use in training exercises.

Depression-Era Redlining Leaves Parts Of Durham Less Green

Jun 10, 2016
National Archives

A new study from Duke University shows how maps from a Depression-era loan program that discriminated against predominantly black neighborhoods resulted in inequities that still linger, even down to the number of trees on a city block.

Photo: Jordan Lake
Flickr user Jeremy Taylor

Senate Republicans are proposing eliminating the state’s protections for drinking water from Jordan and Falls lakes, in favor of new measures that could allow polluters to dump into the stream and could treat the water by introducing mussels to potentially feed off pollutants.

Hurricane Irene
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr Creative Commons

Forecasters are predicting an Atlantic hurricane season that may include 10 to 16 named storms this year, according to annual predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released Friday.

Of those storms, 4 to 8 could become hurricanes.

Flooding in Chapel Hill on Sunday
Jstn568 / wunderground

Flooding and hurricanes are the main natural threats facing North Carolina, according to a new risk assessment map published online by the World Bank.

The interactive map is designed to help developers and project planners anticipate natural disasters and the impact of climate change.

Emerald Ash Borer And Other Invasives Hit NC Hard

May 23, 2016
an image of a metallic, green emerald ash borer
USDA

North Carolina is one of the states hardest hit by invasive forest pests, according to a report from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

Part of the problem is global trade is bringing new insects and diseases that are devastating native trees, said Gary Lovett, the study’s lead author.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

Democrats in the state House and Senate want stricter regulations on vanadium and hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6.

coal ash
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The Department of Environmental Quality has made significant changes to how Duke Energy may have to handle coal ash at its basins across the state.

DEQ released a final report that ranks all the state’s 33 coal ash basins by threat level. Unlike its previous draft report released last December, this one classifies all of the basins as either high or intermediate risk.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

Two environmental groups could be on the hook for $10 million if they want to continue their battle against Duke Energy. Last week’s ruling by the state Utilities Commission against The Climate Times and North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network (NC WARN) used a state law provision that has never been used before. The money is slated to cover costs incurred by Duke Energy because of the delay caused by the appeals process.

A red wolf
Joan Lopez via Flickr/Creative Commons

An endangered red wolf pup has been born at the North Carolina Zoo.

The sole pup is the sixth litter of red wolves born at the zoo, but the first since 2010.

State Officials To Scrap SolarBee Project On Jordan Lake

May 6, 2016
A SolarBee
Medora Corporation

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality announced it will halt the SolarBee pilot project, saying the floating mixers are not improving water quality in Jordan Lake.

Launched two years ago, the SolarBee project was intended to prevent the growth of algae in the lake. But state officials say there’s been no significant improvement in water quality.

Environmental advocates agree.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

Committees in the state House and Senate are weighing a measure that would prevent state agencies from issuing certain health warnings on drinking water.

An image of poster for 'The Great Animal Orchestra Symphony'
Richard Blackford

The noises of the natural world are filled with sounds of joy, sorrow and survival. Step outside and you may hear the sound of a wren singing into the air or a beaver who is mourning the loss of an offspring.

These sounds and more are featured in The Great Animal Orchestra Symphony. The musical work combines the sounds of live orchestral music with animals in their natural environments.
 

A Nature Conservancy crew member sets a backfire at Nags Head Woods Preserve.
Aaron McCall/The Nature Conservancy

The fire began Tuesday night and has since burned 200 acres--about a fifth of the preserve. Several vacation homes are in the path of the flames.

Crews with the state forest service and the Nature Conservancy are trying to contain the flames by digging fire lines, and by burning portions of land in the fire's path to reduce fuel.

Nature Conservancy spokeswoman Debbie Crane said Thursday, gusty conditions aren't helping crews' efforts.

An image of fracking natural gas
AP Images

In February, the N.C. Utilities Commission gave Duke Energy approval to build two natural gas-fired units at an Asheville power plant.  Natural gas is considered a "bridge fuel" between fossil fuels and renewable energy, but experts warn that it can actually be worse than coal for the environment. 

Cutting down on coal in Asheville stems from a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but relying on natural gas ignores dangerous emissions of methane. 

Jordan Lake, Durham, NC
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The state is asking the public to weigh in on how Jordan Lake's water will be divvied up for the next 30 years.

President Obama Halts Offshore Oil Drilling Plan

Mar 15, 2016
Oil drilliing
Wikipedia

A federal plan to drill for oil off the North Carolina coast has been shelved.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced Tuesday the Obama administration will not pursue oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic.

“We heard from many corners that now is not the time to start leasing off the Atlantic coast,” said Jewell. “This includes many whose livelihoods depend on shipping, tourism and commercial activity.”

Last year, President Obama proposed opening coastlines from Virginia to Georgia to offshore drilling.

Grey catbird on a beautyberry shrub.
Will Stuart / bcdcideas.com

Audubon North Carolina is encouraging nurseries to raise more native plants. The conservation organization is also asking more residents to plant them in their yards and gardens.

Green Swamp
The Nature Conservancy

Eastern North Carolina is a part of one of the most ecologically diverse locations on the planet. But because of human activity, it is also one of the most threatened.

Thanks to those two factors, the entire North American Coastal Plain – stretching from Cape Cod to northern Mexico - has been designated as one of three-dozen global biodiversity hotspots.

NOAA

The Monitor is one of the most famous ships – and shipwrecks – in U.S. naval history. After several battles in 1862, the Union ironclad sunk 16 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras during the Civil War.

The wreck was discovered in 1973, and two years later the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was created, protecting the site and one-mile of water that encircles it.

Now, NOAA wants to create similar sanctuaries around other important historical shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast.

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