Environment

US Embassy Canada / Flickr Creative Commons

North Carolina is one of the leading states in solar energy. 

But the recent elimination of some tax credits and the possibility of solar permitting may slow the growth of solar energy in the state. And the Department of Environmental Quality is considering a change to the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards that could affect renewable energy production in the state. 

Forest History Society

The demand for wood at the end of the 19th century decimated America's forests in the North and Midwest with unsustainable logging practices. However, innovative techniques started to bloom as German forester Carl Schenck began to manage the thousands of acres of woodlands around the recently-built Biltmore Estate near Asheville.

Schenck's strategies for foresting and his creation of the first forestry school helped Pisgah National Forest become the first national forest established from private land.

coal ash
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

February is a big month for Duke Energy to move coal ash out of its Dan River site.

With a new two-mile rail spur in place and machines moving material from large “ash stacks” – soil-covered mounds of coal ash - Duke Energy expects to double its current rate of progress.

Dan River
Steven Alexander, USFWS

An advisory board created by Duke Energy says nearly all of the company’s coal ash ponds in North Carolina can safely be capped in place.

The National Ash Management Advisory Board was created by Duke Energy a few months after the Dan River spill. It is made up of engineering faculty from across the country and executives from the private sector.

CAMC
Dave DeWitt

The North Carolina Supreme Court has sided with Governor Pat McCrory in a case against leaders in the General Assembly.

Image of bottled water provided by Duke Energy to families affected by the coal ash spill.
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Next month will mark two years since 40,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of contaminated water flowed into Dan River as a result of a Duke Energy spill. The electric utility giant is working to clean up the coal ash at multiple sites across the state.

But legal infighting and regulatory delays have stalled progress at 10 of the 14 sites. Meanwhile some residents are afraid to drink out of their tap.

solar
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

A key energy advisory commission today pushed back a decision on adding nuclear power to a list of approved energy sources, and create a new Clean Energy Portfolio Standard that would replace the current standard based on renewable energy.

Snow plow clearing the road
NCDOT

WUNC's complete coverage of the winter storm's timeline, impact, and ongoing closures and power outages.  Check back throughout the day and evening.

The house centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata .
Bruce Marlin / Wikipedia

Researchers are looking into how many arthropods may be living in US homes.  Arthropods include insects, spiders and centipedes.  Initial findings were based on searches of 50 free-standing houses in Raleigh.

Salt brine sprayed and dried on a road surface for anti-icing before a snow storm
Z22 / Wikipedia

Winter Storm Jonas is headed across North Carolina tonight into early tomorrow morning.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Brandon Dunstan says the Triangle could get up to five inches of snow before tomorrow morning's commute; the Triad could see 10 inches. Freezing rain will likely fall throughout the afternoon.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Abbot says the department is ready.

coal ash
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Duke Energy is the largest electric utility in the country, with nearly $25 billion in annual operating revenue. And on a cold, blustery day at its Dan River site, that corporate power is on display.

Massive machines–40-ton trucks, front-end-loaders, and bulldozers–are moving in perfect synchronization, loading coal ash and soil into rail cars.

“This is priority one for Duke Energy right now,” says Jeff Brooks, a Duke Energy spokesman. “This is the most important thing that many of us have worked on for several years now. We have an army of engineers and technical staff that have developed the closure plans for these sites.”

Cold sky in the woods.
http://www.torange.biz

An Arctic cold front passed through the region Monday, bringing below-freezing temperatures to the Triad and Triangle.

National Weather Service Forecaster Scott Sharp says temperatures have hovered in the teens so far this morning.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality says Duke Energy will have to excavate most of its coal ash pits in North Carolina.

A new report says 20 pits have to be cleaned up rather than covered, but environmental groups think that number should be higher and point to an earlier draft report that identified 27 pits for excavation. 

mid-currituck bridge
NC DOT

A controversial bridge project that would make the northern Outer Banks more accessible could happen earlier than expected.

The Mid-Currituck Bridge has been on the drawing board for years. The seven-mile bridge would cross the Currituck sound and link Corolla to the mainland.

The State Department of Transportation heard a proposal for a quicker timeline for bridge construction earlier this month. Gov. Pat McCrory outlined the fast-tracking of the project in November.

alligator
NC Wildlife Resources Commission

North Carolina’s hunters may soon get a chance to bag a gator.

The State Wildlife Resources Commission is considering adding alligators to the list of "huntable" animals.

According to the best guess by biologists, the number of alligators has risen steadily in North Carolina in recent years. An exact number of the stealthy, largely nocturnal reptiles is very hard to determine.

People walk past erosion on the beach caused by Hurricane Ophelia on Kure Beach, N.C. in 2005.
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kure and Carolina Beaches are closed until spring for a roughly $10 million beach nourishment project. Sand dredged up from the ocean is being used to replenish the eroding beaches.

Oil drilliing
Wikipedia

A new economic assessment is the latest effort in the ongoing fight over possible oil exploration off the North Carolina coast.

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

A standing-room-only crowd packed a state government board room in Raleigh last night to express their thoughts on North Carolina’s commitment to climate change.

A SolarBee
Medora Corporation

North Carolina is home to seven natural lakes. Jordan Lake—despite its name—is not one of them. It’s a reservoir, created in 1974.

And almost from the day it was first dammed, Jordan Lake has been impaired.

Image of wood pellets, which are causing an environmental controversy in North Carolina. Though the energy source is carbon neutral in theory, that's not always true in practice.
Andrew_Writer / Flickr Creative Commons

The wood pellet industry is booming in North Carolina, thanks in part to high demand from Europe. Power plants burn the wood product to create energy, but wood pellet companies are cutting down trees at a higher rate than anticipated, raising questions about whether the practice really is carbon neutral.

The Latest On Paris Climate Change Talks

Dec 10, 2015
Justin Catanoso is covering COP 21 in Paris, where global leaders hope to finalize a universal agreement to fight climate change.
Eric. J. Lyman

Ice caps are melting, ocean levels are rising and coral reefs are dying. The way things are going, some scientists say the world could be unfit for human habitation by the end of century.

All eyes are on Paris right now as world leaders are negotiating an agreement to slow the effects of climate change. A deal is expected by tomorrow, but there are still big issues to resolve between the industrialized and developing nations. 

Enviva
Dave DeWitt

Enviva, the embattled wood-pellet manufacturer, has announced a $5 million conservation program designed to save some of North Carolina’s environmentally sensitive forests.

Enviva has been under fire from critics for using whole hardwood trees to make the majority of the wood pellets it produces, instead of wood waste. At its two plants in North Carolina, more than 85 percent of the wood comes from hardwood trees.

Kathy Bosiak
Climate Generation

The main goal of the U.N. Climate Talks in Paris this week and next is to negotiate international efforts to deal with the climate crisis. But it will also serve as a learning experience for future generations.

Dave DeWitt

Trucks carrying long logs stream into the wood pellet plant on the edge of Ahoskie all day, every day. The facility, owned by a company called Enviva, was an abandoned saw mill just five years ago. Now, it towers over the adjacent Wal-Mart and Hardees, spewing white smoke.

Along the fence that encircles the plant, logs are stacked 40-feet high. Longleaf pine, southern red oak, white ash - pretty much every tree species that grows in the southeast could be used to make wood pellets.

Blue Ridge Mountains
Christopher Sessums / Flickr Creative Commons

Duke Energy has scrapped a proposal to build new transmission lines in western North Carolina.

The decision comes after environmental groups raised concerns about the plans for 45 miles worth of towers from Asheville to South Carolina. The controversy attracted more than 9,000 public comments online.

Ricks / German Wikipedia

N.C. State University researchers have found that bees are more susceptible to diseases in areas where there's more pavement and less green space.

Entomologist Dave Tarpy co-authored a report in the journal PLOS ONE. It compared the levels of pathogens in both wild bees and those tended to by bee keepers.

Faith Community Church
NC Warn

State regulators meet this week to decide whether to expedite the implementation of a new law that would change environmental standards.

It includes a cut to the number of air quality monitors in the state and allows companies to avoid fines if they self-report an environmental violation. 

A picture of the Raleigh skyline at night.
Jmalljmall / Wikipedia

Buildings in downtown Raleigh will turn off non-essential lights late at night to protect migrating birds, according to the City of Raleigh Office of Sustainability.

Greg Fishel
WRAL.com

Broadcast meteorologists on local television have one job. It’s simple to express but difficult to do well. Predict the future, a few days at a time.

To be an effective forecaster, a broadcast meteorologist has to be a scientist. And because it’s TV, she or he also has to be likable and trustworthy.

Greg Fishel of WRAL is all of those things. He also used to be a global warming denier. Now, he admits he was wrong.

Duke Energy
Duke Energy

Duke Energy has announced it will buy Piedmont Natural Gas for $4.9 billion dollars in cash.

Piedmont Natural Gas serves customers in almost every area of the state, outside the Triangle. Both companies are headquartered in Charlotte.

“This transaction consolidates our critical natural gas and power infrastructure into one company to greatly enhance customer service, safety, integrity, and reliability,” said Piedmont CEO Tom Skaines in a conference call.

Pages