Environment

North Carolina is seeking to regulate emissions from a big egg-producing facility, using the Clean Water Act. Today the department of Environment and Natural Resources will be in Hyde County Superior Court, where Rose Acre Farms will argue the state can't use water regulations to control air emissions. At issue are pollutants being released through ventilation fans in Rose Acre's hen houses, which contain more than 3 million chickens.

 An organization in Durham that set out to help locals save on their energy bills is expanding its reach.    Clean Energy Durham is five years old.  The small non-profit developed a creative energy-saving model that trains organizations and neighborhood groups and encourages them to tell a neighbor.

Judy Kincaid:  "It builds community within neighborhoods, between neighborhoods and it saves people money."

Judy Kincaid is Executive Director of Clean Energy Durham.

North Carolina Department of Transportation officials will find out this morning if the Nor'easter that skirted the Outer Banks yesterday added to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. NC 12 was washed out in several places and covered with sand in others. There was also damage to the tension cables on Bonner Bridge. Dara Demi works for the DOT. She says repairs could take several weeks.

The Coast Guard is continuing its search for the missing captain of the tall ship that sank off North Carolina's coast. The replica ship HMS Bounty went down in wind and waves stirred up by Hurricane Sandy. 63-year-old Robin Walbridge has not been seen since Monday. Searchers rescued 14 of the ship's crew. One crew member died. Petty Officer Brandyn Hill is a Coast Guard spokesman. He says they look at several factors before opting to continue a search.

North Carolinians are stepping up to help people in the mid-Atlantic and New England states affected by the storm. Duke Energy is sending crews to help restore power. Dave Scanzoni is a spokesman for the utility.

Dave Scanzoni:" Duke Energy has committed to send about 12-hundred line workers to the Northeast and impacted areas from Hurricane Sandy. These crews will mostly be contractors that work full time for Duke Energy largely in Florida and some from our territories in Indiana as well."

Residents along North Carolina's coast are watching to see what Hurricane Sandy does in the Atlantic.

Officials with the City of Raleigh may ask for some changes to be made to how much water they can use from Falls Lake Reservoir. The request may delay plans for a new reservoir in eastern Wake County.

Leaders from across the country will speak tomorrow at a conference on the health effects of natural gas fracking. The Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative is a non-profit group that holds an annual conference every year on health issues. Martin Armes is the executive director of the collaborative. He said,  "We certainly recognize that we identify some hot button issues but we're going to try to conduct these meetings in a manner to be as productive as we can to make some recommendations. And we try to depoliticize the process as much as we can."

Conservatives will discuss the environment today at Duke University. Politicians, academics and business leaders are among those attending and speaking at the event, entitled Conservative Visions of our Environmental Future. Jessalee Landfried is one of the organizers of the event and a Duke law student who's also pursuing a degree at Duke-Nicholas School of the Environment. She says these issues have become deeply partisan.

At this hydroelectric damn water passes through the penstocks, as Alcoa employees observe
Jeff Tiberii

Nearly 100 years ago Alcoa Incorporated began generating electricity by using dams along the Yadkin River about 60 miles South of the Triad. For decades that electricity was used to power Alcoa’s aluminum plant in Badin. The factory has long since closed, however, and today the electricity is sold on the open market. Alcoa owns the hyrdoelectric dams and is seeking another 50-year federal license to operate them – and continue selling power. Opponents of this effort are concerned about water quality and whether the damns should be more beneficial to the local and state economy.

Department of Transportation officials want coastal residents to be aware that the rainy, windy weather could delay the ferry from Ocracoke Island to Hatteras Island. The Army Corps of Engineers dredged Hatteras Inlet back in May. But DOT spokeswoman Lucy Wallace says shoaling in Hatteras Inlet means it will have to be dredged again. In the meantime, she says passengers should keep an eye on the ferry schedule.

Progress Energy will close one of its older coal-fired plants tomorrow.

Officials with the Duke Energy subsidiary say the Lee plant near Goldsboro is one of four coal plants it will retire by the end of next year. The company will replace each of them with natural gas facilities designed to cut back on environmental emissions. Progress Energy spokesman Mike Hughes says it's part of a fleet modernization program begun three years ago.

About 20 private wells in a Wake Forest neighborhood have been found to be contaminated with a toxic degreasing agent. Kenneth Rhame is a federal on-scene coordinator with the Environmental Protection Agency. He says one home off Stony Hill Road had concentrations of TCE more than 65 times the safe drinking limit.

Community members, activists and friends will meet near Warrenton - northeast of Raleigh - this weekend to mark a historic milestone in the nation’s environmental justice movement.

The Environmental Justice movement was born in Warren County.  The mostly black community of Afton stood up – and laid down in the streets – to try to stop the state from digging a P-C-B contaminated landfill where they lived – as seen on WBTV in 1982.

Voice One:  I don’t want this stuff throwed in my water!

Members of the state Mining and Energy Commission will hold their first meeting tomorrow. The 15-member commission was created by a state law passed earlier this year that authorizes natural gas fracking as early as 2014. The commission's role is to create a modern regulatory program for the management of oil and gas exploration and development activities in the state. Marva Mizell Price, a professor at the Duke University School of Nursing, is part of the group.

Grandfather Mountain Trees
Hugh Morton

With summer drawing to a close, thoughts turn to fall...and the tradition of leaf-peeping in Western North Carolina. While much of the country has been in drought, North Carolina has gotten plenty of rain in recent months...and that means the foliage this year could be particularly spectacular. Pamela McCown is coordinator for the Institute for Climate Education at A-B Tech in Asheville. She says rainfall is the most important factor in predicting a good year for fall foliage.

Tropical Storm Isaac may be far from North Carolina, but it could put a damper on Labor Day weekend travel plans in the Tar Heel state. Angela Daley is with AAA Carolinas. She says the storm has been disrupting oil production at Gulf Coast refineries.

Angela Daley says, "Gas prices had been going up all summer, but certainly in the past few days we've seen a huge spike of almost 10 cents in just a few days. So that's pretty significant, and we think a lot of last-minute travelers will choose not to travel this weekend."

A recreational fishing group wants the Marine Fisheries Commission to ban a device some commercial fishermen use to catch shrimp.

Gurnal Scott: The device is called an 'otter trawl' but it's not what you think. It's a net used to sweep the ocean floor to catch shrimp. Joe Albea with the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group says those traps kill small fish

The Appalachian Trail turns 75 this week. The nearly 2,200-mile route runs from Georgia to Maine.

Steve Paradis is the Chief Operating Officer of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. He says the trail serves much the same purpose today as it did when it was completed in 1937.

Steve Paradis: It was proposed as a footpath that would connect small working communities and provide an opportunity for people to essentially escape the, if you will, the rat race along the east coast and to rejuvenate their spirit and refresh their souls.

North Carolina is hoping to find better uses for discarded food. A new study from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources finds that residents and businesses generate over a million tons of food waste a year. Scott Mouw is director of the state recycling program.

Scott Mouw: We now should turn our attention to diverting that material from landfills and to other kinds of uses, whether it's using the food for donation to food banks, or to composting, or to other uses that may eventually turn into energy like in anaerobic digestion.

A conference on North Carolina shale is underway in Raleigh. Scientists, government officials, environmentalists, and industry representatives will consider the potential and pitfalls of natural gas drilling in the state.

North Carolina's top apple-producing county is experiencing its worst crop in decades. That's according to growers and agriculture officials who say this year's unusual weather has devastated many of Henderson County's orchards.

Adam Pryor is a farmer and President of the Blue Ridge Apple Growers Association. He says the crop was hit hard in April by an overnight frost, after unusually warm weather had caused the trees to start blooming.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is using a hog farm company's violation to send a message on protecting the environment.

Gurnal Scott: The admission by Columbus County-based Freedman Farms to dumping hog waste in a offshoot of the Waccamaw River in 2007 is costing the company dearly, to the tune of a million and a half dollars.

Thomas Walker: We think that this amount of money going back in to help the people of this district is something that's worth celebrating.

UNC Working to Save Native Species in Galapagos

Jul 25, 2012
Galapagos
The UNC Center for Galapagos Studies

The Galapagos is a chain of 13 large islands about six hundred miles from the coast of Ecuador. It was there, in 1835, that the British scientist Charles Darwin began thinking about how animals change over time. Since then, scientists have called the Galapagos a living laboratory,  a place to study evolution and natural selection. Now, with 180,000 tourists visiting each year, experts say the living lab is in danger, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill scientists are stepping up to help.

Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill are helping communities develop better plans for dealing with floods. The result could be lower flood insurance rates for homeowners.

Dave DeWitt: Flood insurance is a major consideration for many in eastern North Carolina, where some entire counties lie in the floodplain. Since private insurers won’t offer policies, homeowners get flood insurance through National Flood Insurance Program, run by FEMA.

Lee County is one of a handful of central North Carolina areas known to have natural gas reserves. Ever since state legislators passed a law to allow the horizontal drilling method of extracting natural gas known as fracking, county residents have been wondering when and if they’ll see gas wells sprouting up in their backyards. People in the community are divided over what fracking could mean for them.

Emissions of toxic mercury from North Carolina coal-fired power plants have dropped significantly in the last decade.

Jeff Tiberii: In 2002 the General Assembly enacted the Clean Smokestack Act, aimed at cutting emissions. The North Carolina Division of Air Quality says the result is a 70-percent drop in toxic mercury entering the atmosphere. Tom Mather is with the division.

HSUS
HSUS

The Humane Society of the United States is serving notice to 51 different hog facilities that it will sue over the amount of toxic air pollution they produce.

Leoneda Inge:  Six of the farms are in Edgecombe County and they are all owned by Hanor of Wisconsin.  Peter Brandt is the senior attorney for Farm Animals at the Humane Society.   He says the high level of ammonia produced by these hog farms shows a disregard for the environment, communities and federal law.

North Carolina Department of Transportation officials are working on permanent fixes for last year's damage from Hurricane Irene on the Outer Banks. Two breaches along Highway 12 are covered with temporary bridges. Beth Smyre is a planning engineer with the DOT. She says permanent spans will be higher and longer than the temporary structures.

NC Drought Management Advisory Council Drought

North Carolina is officially in a drought again. The lack of rain and high temperatures have contributed to moderate drought in seventeen counties, including Mecklenburg and Wake. Thirty-five others are experiencing abnormally dry conditions because there hasn't been enough rain. Sarah Young is the public information officer for the state Division of Water Resources. She says water restrictions matter now more than ever.

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