Environment

The old well at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.
Tim Schleicher / flickr, Creative Commons

Legislative leaders are at odds with environmentalists over a new policy initiative at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The state budget sets aside $1 million for scientists to conduct environmental research and make public policy recommendations. But some professors worry about potential ties to the legislature that could pressure them to sway their findings for political gain.

Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC's Dave DeWitt about the new program, which has been dubbed the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory.

Family Of Earth

Aug 23, 2016
Photo of Wilma Dykeman
Jim Stokely

Wilma Dykeman published 18 books in her lifetime, including meditations on environmental conservation, race, birth control and chemically-altered food. She addressed many of these issues long before they were hot topics in public discourse.

In her first book, "The French Broad," (Rinehart, 1955) she became one of the first writers to argue that clean water could be an economic development tool.

Megan Davies
NC DHHS

Some of the state’s environmental watchdogs are quitting their jobs, saying it is impossible to achieve their objectives under Governor McCrory’s administration and the Republican-led legislature.

In a recent editorial, Susan Ladd, columnist with the Greensboro News and Record, asserts that lawmakers have taken many actions to hinder environmental protection.

Megan Davies
NC DHHS

State Epidemiologist Megan Davies has resigned her position, effectively immediately. It is the latest twist in an ongoing dispute over coal ash contamination of home water wells and an inter-departmental fight within Governor Pat McCrory's administration. 

ECU Scientists Track Spread Of Zombie Crabs

Aug 4, 2016
Cliff Hollis, ECU News Services

North Carolina's mud crabs are falling victim to an invasive parasite that researchers say turns them into walking zombies.

April Blakeslee is an assistant professor of biology at East Carolina University. She said the parasitic barnacle called Loxothylacus panopaei, or simply Loxo, can commandeer the reproductive systems of the crabs and alter their behavior.

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

State toxicologist Ken Rudo testified that Governor Pat McCrory participated via phone in a meeting to draft letters to well owners downplaying the risk of coal ash contamination in their drinking water.

A map of an arrow pointing from Raleigh, NC to Pharr, TX.
Climate Central / Climate Central

Duke Energy Carolinas customers used a summertime record amount of energy last week. The only time the company saw a higher use was during the polar vortex in February 2015.

Prominent Coastal Geologist Quits Science Advisory Panel

Aug 1, 2016
Stan Riggs
Courtesy of East Carolina University

A prominent member of a science advisory panel of the Coastal Resources Commission has resigned.

Stan Riggs says he's no longer willing to fight what he calls an "uphill battle" against state leaders who are making poor long-term decisions about the coast.

photo of a church
Theresa Schenk / Pixabay

Note: This segment originally aired on Thursday, June 2, 2016.

Whether it's reducing carbon emissions or increasing solar energy, environmentalists see a need for people to change the way they treat the earth in the shadow of climate change. Likewise, some religion leaders see their faith as motivation to care better for the environment.

Ken Ilgunas

This program originally aired on April 21, 2016.

Ken Ilgunas was working as a dishwasher near the oil refineries of Alaska when his friend suggested they should hike the entire length of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

He immediately agreed, and a year later he started the journey from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas on foot.

Jedediah Purdy
Travis Drove

  This show originally aired on October 6, 2015.

In an era where humans and the environment are inextricably tied, how do we approach environmental politics, economics and ethics?

In what ways do the historical perspectives on the relationship between humanity and nature shape how policymakers approach current environmental issues like climate change and global warming?

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.

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