Environment

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

  

It’s been an environmental quandry for years: what to do hog waste in North Carolina.

The state is home to nearly 9 million hogs, which produce massive amounts of waste.

Some of it goes back onto the farms of eastern North Carolina as fertilizer, but much of it is stored in open-air lagoons, which have been known to contaminate groundwater and produce a putrid smell for nearby homes.

A new technology exists to convert the waste into energy but it is not affordable for most hog farmers.

Fracking
Wikipedia

    

Earlier this year, a new law lifted the ban on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, in North Carolina.  Legislators said fracking permits could be issued as early as this coming spring. The process, which extracts natural gas from deep within the earth, is a controversial one.

Opponents say allowing fracking here could cause air and water pollution and adversely affect vulnerable populations. Advocates say fracking could bring economic prosperity and jobs to the state.

Host Frank Stasio talks with a panel of experts about fracking:

A picture of Crabtree Creek flowing into Neuse River, at Anderson Point Park, Raleigh
bobistraveling / Flickr

The city of Raleigh and Johnston County are considering sharing water resources as both communities prepare for exponential population growth.

The county and the city have asked a water planning firm to evaluate the benefits and feasibility of working together to secure new water sources.

Kenneth Waldroup works in water planning for Raleigh Public Utilities Department. He says Johnston County is situated just down the Neuse River from Raleigh, and it's likely that the municipalities are duplicating planning efforts.

Apple solar
Apple

When Apple makes an announcement – any announcement – the world stops and listens. And while it wasn’t a new product launch, when Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke last month ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, it was a big deal.

“We have a huge data center in Maiden North Carolina,” Cook said. “There were no options to buy renewable energy. Our only way to do that, was to build it.”

Partial solar eclipse
T. Ruen / NASA Goddard via Twitter

There will be a partial solar eclipse tonight at 6:00. The eclipse is expected to last about three hours. Such an eclipse occurs when the moon obscures part of the sun.

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.

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