Dave DeWitt

Reporter @DaveDeWitt

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Environment Reporter. He came to WUNC in 2003 and spent four years on the staff of The State of Things.

He regularly files for NPR’s news magazines as well as Marketplace and Only A Game. He formerly worked in college athletics, college admissions, and with the Tar Heel Sports Network. In 2001, he wrote the non-fiction book "True Blue".

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Environment
2:01 pm
Sat December 20, 2014

EPA: Coal Ash Not Hazardous Waste

A US Fish and Wildlife Service agent responding to the coal ash spill on the Dan River earlier this year.
Credit USFWS

The Environmental Protection Agency came out today with its first-ever regulations for coal ash.

The new rules treat coal ash like regular household garbage, instead of hazardous waste, as many environmental groups wanted. The EPA said the record did not support a hazardous-waste classification.

Coal ash is the byproduct when coal is burned for electricity. It contains arsenic, selenium, and other materials that can be harmful to humans.

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Environment
2:59 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Watchdog Group Files Federal Complaint Against Duke Energy

Duke Energy's Wayne County Power Plant came online in 2000.
Credit Duke Energy

A watchdog group has filed a federal complaint against Duke Energy. NC Warn says the company is keeping rates artificially high by building power plants it doesn’t need.

Duke Energy is required to keep production capacity at 15 percent above the peak day of the year. NC Warn says the company regularly has double that amount of electricity on hand.

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Environment
8:57 am
Fri December 12, 2014

A Tree's Life: From The North Carolina Mountains To Your Living Room

Trees of all sizes growing at the Smokey Holler Christmas Tree Farm in Alleghany County.
Credit 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.”

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Environment
8:13 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Some In Lee County Oppose Coal Ash Dump

A protester outside the Duke Energy event in Lee County.
Credit 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.

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Environment
5:19 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Coal Ash in Carolina: Three Important Questions

Tom Augspurger (left), contaminants specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, takes a core sample of coal ash on Feb. 8 on the banks of the Dan River. Augsperger is shown here with John Fridell, also with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Rick Smith of Duke Energy.
Credit 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?

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Environment
4:31 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

N.C. State's Hofmann Forest Will Not Be Sold, At Least Not Yet

The land that became the Hofmann Forest was first bought by Julius Hoffman, the first Dean of NC State's College of Forestry.
Credit 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.

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Environment
4:56 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Report: Offshore Wind Electricity Poised For Growth In NC

A windmill on Jennette's Pier in Nags Head.
Credit 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.

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Environment
2:52 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Two North Carolina Counties Want To Get Paid To Take Coal Ash

Duke Energy owns and operates 32 coal ash ponds at 14 sites across North Carolina.
Credit 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.

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Environment
3:26 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

New Report Critical Of Red Wolf Recovery Program In Eastern North Carolina

The Red Wolf Recovery Area covers five counties in eastern NC.
Credit 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.

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Environment
6:10 am
Wed November 19, 2014

Global Warming Skeptic Fills Science Seat On Coal Ash Commission In North Carolina

Coal ash at the Dan River plant in Eden, NC.
Credit 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.

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