Environment

A picture of a shrimp trawler.
NOAA Fishwatch / Wikipedia

A Duke University study says North Carolina coastal fishermen could make more money and preserve the shrimp fishery, if they'd wait until late in the season for the big catch.

Duke Environmental Economics Professor Martin Smith is a lead author of the study. He analyzed State Marine Fisheries data showing fishing vessel size, the size of the catch, and what it sold for on a daily basis over six years.

A picture of a cerulean warbler bird.
Mdf / Wikipedia

A new Audubon Society study says most North American winter birds are migrating farther north than they did in the 1960s.

Curtis Smalling is the North Carolina Mountain Office’s director of land bird conservation. He says population changes will sweep across North Carolina.

christmas trees
Dave DeWitt

Christmas trees begin here, clinging to five-by-five foot patches of ground on the side of a soil-covered hunk of granite in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The slope dips down several hundred feet below where we’re standing. Fraser Firs of all shapes and sizes surrounded by Dutch white clover covers the landscape.

“Do you see why they call it Smokey Holler?” asks Della Deal.  “It’s a beautiful place up here.”

coal ash
Dave DeWitt

Last night, Duke Energy employees hadn’t yet set up all their tables along the walls of the first-floor hallway of the Lee County Arts and Community Center when Mark Coggins walked in.

And he was here for one reason.

“To see if we can stop the coal ash from coming to Lee County,” Coggins said.

A lifelong resident of Sanford, Coggins is not what you’d call open-minded on the issue.

coal ash
Steve Alexander, USFWS

Politicians, regulators, engineers, and commissions are trying to decide what to do with the 100-million tons of coal ash in 32 pits and ponds across North Carolina.

Before a broken storm pipe caused 33,000 tons of coal ash to spill into the Dan River back in February, most people had never heard of it.

So what is coal ash? How dangerous is it? And what are we going to do with it?

Question #1: What is coal ash?

A picture of cats
Jeffrey W www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreyww/4544016041/ / Flickr

In a letter addressed to euthanasia technicians and registered animal shelters in the state, the N.C. Department of Agriculture says the use of gas chambers for euthanizing cats and dogs is no longer acceptable.

The letter comes from Dr. Patricia Norris, the new director of the Animal Welfare Section at the Department.

"We're basically clarifying the policy for everybody," said Norris.

Hofmann Forest
Historical State, NCSU Libraries

NC State University will not be selling Hofmann Forest, for now. The two firms that had agreed to buy the 79,000-acre research forest near Jacksonville could not meet its financial obligations to buy the property.

The two firms, Resource Management Service and Hoffman Forest, LLC, had agreed to pay $131 million to buy Hofmann Forest. But they ran into financial problems almost immediately after entering into the agreement with NC State.

While this contract has terminated, that doesn’t mean Hofmann Forest won’t be sold in the future.

Jennette's Pier
Dave DeWitt

 A new report from advocacy group Environment North Carolina says the state is under-utilizing its capacity to produce electricity from wind power.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, North Carolina has the most offshore wind potential of any Atlantic state.

If tapped, the report says offshore wind resources in the state could grow to power 2.5 million homes by 2030.

A map of Duke Energy's 14 coal ash sites and their operational status in 14 energy plants across the state.
Duke Energy

Duke Energy’s plan to dispose of coal ash in abandoned clay mines in two North Carolina counties may hit a snag.

If coal waste was trash from your kitchen trash can, and ended up in a private landfill, the owners of that landfill would be required to pay a host fee of $2 per ton of trash.

Duke Energy’s plan to dispose of 20 million tons of coal ash in abandoned clay mines in Lee and Chatham counties should come under the same rules, say officials in Lee County.

Pisgah National Forest
Flickr

It's a touchy debate, consisting of rather loaded language. But, surprisingly, there may be a consensus somewhere in the underbrush.

Earlier this month, the Southern Environmental Law Center put out a release saying new plans to open 700,000 acres of Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests up for timber operations were a dramatic shift in policy:

red wolf
Southern Environmental Law Center

A report on the Red Wolf Recovery Program in eastern North Carolina is highly critical of various aspects of the nearly 30-year old effort to re-introduce the endangered animal into the wild.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contracted out the report to evaluate the program. Currently about 100 red wolves live in a five-county area in and around the Alligator River National Wildlife refuge.

Among other things, the report criticizes the original estimate for how much land would be needed to support the population.

Oxfam distribution in East Africa, 2011
wikipedia

More than one billion people worldwide do not have enough to eat. Some experts estimate a need for more food in the next 40 years than in the last 10,000. National Geographic contributor Joel Bourne wrote a 2009 cover story, The End of Plenty, about the crisis. He has continued his reporting on the causes of the food shortage crisis and strategies used to address it. Host Frank Stasio talks with Bourne about his work.

coal ash
NC DENR

Back in February, a storm pipe ruptured underneath Duke Energy's Dan River Coal Plant in Eden, North Carolina. Within hours, 39,000 tons of coal ash spilled into the river. It was the third-largest such spill in U.S. history.

In response, North Carolina passed the first-ever law to create rules for disposing of coal ash, a waste product of burning coal for power generation that can contain harmful levels of toxic chemicals.

Image of three growingchange.org participants harvesting food.
Noran Sanford

Cody Oxendine grew up in a small town in North Carolina dominated by gangs. He joined a gang at a young age and his activities landed him in juvenile court for two counts of simple assault. Three years ago, he was on probation and doing everything in his power to avoid prison. Now, 18-year-old Cody is thrilled to spend a lot of his time at one particular prison.

Oxendine is part of a group of youth leading an effort to flip an abandoned prison in Wagram, North Carolina into a sustainable farm.

solar
Yes Solar Solutions

The small warehouse and loading area in the back of the Yes! Solar Solutions building in Cary is empty. And that’s a good thing. On this bright, sunny Fall day, it means all the crews are out on jobs, installing solar panels on houses.

Kathy Miller and her husband Stew started the company in 2009, after selling the Primrose Schools of Cary. They could have done almost anything at that point, but decided to throw their future into solar energy.

Turns out, the pre-school business and the solar business aren’t all that different.

Frost design
RachelEllen via Flickr/Creative Commons

Residents of the Piedmont will experience a bitter cold snap Tuesday morning.  A strong front passing through the state Monday evening will lead to temperatures only reaching as high as the 30s Tuesday.  

National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Sharp says the chilly weather will stretch into Tuesday night.

Sharp predicts it will be very cold Tuesday night with lows near 20, upper teens in more outlying areas. 

Then on Wednesday we will start what Sharp calls a moderating trend, with temperatures still well below normal for this time of year. 

CAMC
Dave DeWitt

The North Carolina Coal Ash Commission has begun the process of creating rules and regulations to manage the cleanup of Duke Energy’s 32 coal ash ponds.

The Commission has a huge job. Among other things, Commission Chair Michael Jacobs made it clear that cost will be a consideration.

“To the extent that cleanup costs are passed on to the residents and businesses of North Carolina through higher power rates, everyone who uses power will share the expense,” Jacobs said.

Duke Energy has said it would cost $10 billion to move coal ash from all sites.

Craig Bromby
Hunton & Williams LLP

A lawyer advising North Carolina's environmental agency on rewriting clean-up rules for Duke Energy's coal ash dumps previously represented the electricity company on the same issue.

Craig Bromby was hired in June at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He retired in March as a partner at the Raleigh office of Hunton & Williams, where his corporate clients included Duke.

Dan River
Steven Alexander, USFWS

The long road to determining how Duke Energy will clean up its 32 coal ash ponds starts today. The Coal Ash Management Commission holds it first meeting in Chapel Hill.

Among the many decisions the Commission will make is classifying the ponds as low, intermediate, or high-risk.

“The classification is really going to drive what the final closure plan looks like,” says Robin Smith, an environmental attorney and a former assistant secretary at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

A manhole cover at night
Evan Blaser / Flickr/Creative Commons

Scott Huler explores city infrastructure for his new book, On the Grid. Listen to the stories of what's been found in Raleigh's sewers:

Here's an excerpt from the book:

Oil drilliing
Wikipedia

  

In 2015, oil industry representatives will begin exploration off the Carolina coastlines. Some of those representatives met with government officials last week in Raleigh. But the details around their closed-door meeting are scant. Supporters say the potential drilling could create jobs and revenue for the state but environmentalists maintain that drilling harms humans and wildlife. Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC environmental reporter Dave Dewitt about the latest.

The commission tasked with drafting the rules for hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina is considering some small changes. The Mining and Energy Commission is meeting today and tomorrow in Raleigh.

Over the past several months, the MEC received more than 200,000 comments from nearly 40,000 people. Many wanted an outright fracking ban; others pointed to more specific rule changes they wanted, like requiring pits that store fracking waste to be capped.

Image of Pisgah National Forest
Flickr/Jeff Gun

    

The Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in western North Carolina play an integral role in the state’s environment and economy. 

A man out on a mission to hand his Walk [Your City] signage in Charleston.
flickr.com/photos/125627375@N04

Lots of cities cater to populations that prefer to drive.

Man sitting on a park bench
Grant MacDonald / Flickr/Creative Commons

Raleigh voters have approved a $92-million bond referendum to improve parks and recreational facilities in the capital city.  The measure was solidly supported, 68 percent to 32 percent.

Voters' approval will mean a rise in property tax of 1.72 cents that will go into effect next July.

Funds from that tax increase will also pay for acquisition of new park land and new construction.  The plans for improvement are detailed in a new System Plan adopted by the Raleigh City Council.

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.

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