Dave DeWitt

Managing Editor for News

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Managing Editor for News. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.

He has filed storites 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".

 

Ways to Connect

One of Progress Energy's solar energy farms.
Duke Energy/Progress Energy

Energy experts and business executives are in Raleigh today for the State Energy Conference. It's a comprehensive event looking at the future of energy production in North Carolina.

That future could very well include offshore oil exploration. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is in the early stages of possibly selling oil drilling leases off the North Carolina coast.

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

Some residents who live near coal ash sites owned by Duke Energy are being told not to drink or cook with water that comes from their wells.

Eighty-seven of the 117 letters (pdf) sent by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources so far have indicated that well water exceeded state groundwater standards for some toxic heavy metals.

Apple Buying Land In NC

Apr 17, 2015
Green Swamp
The Nature Conservancy

 Apple is partnering with a national land conservation group to buy up land in North Carolina.

The 3,600 acre tract Apple and The Conservation Fund is buying is located in Brunswick County. It’s described by the Fund as having “high-quality pine savannas and striking and unusual plants and flowers.”

A picture of an oil rig
BOEM

 Two elected officials from North Carolina addressed a Congressional hearing today examining the impacts of the Obama Administration plan to open the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf to oil exploration.

This morning, Governor Pat McCrory restated his general support for the plan to the House Subcommittee On Energy and Mineral Resources.

“Energy development is good for the country’s energy independence and it’s good for North Carolina’s jobs and future careers,” McCrory said. “Let’s start this process now and stop the delays immediately.”

emissions
Dave DeWitt

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is recommending that vehicle emission testing is no longer necessary in many North Carolina counties. 

The DENR report, ordered by the Legislature in 2013, says that emission testing of cars and trucks in as many as 31 counties could be eliminated by next year. 

noose
Duke People of Color Caucus Tumblr

Duke Officials say they have identified the person who hung a noose outside the Bryan Student Center yesterday. 

Officials did not release the name of the person, citing the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. They did say the person was an undergraduate student and is no longer on campus.

Tips from other students led campus investigators to the individual, who admitted to the act.

When utility companies burn coal to make electricity — and it generated 39 percent of U.S. energy in 2013 — it leaves behind ash that can contain arsenic, selenium, boron and many other toxic substances.

A picture of an oil rig
BOEM

The fourth floor ball room at the Ramada Inn - Kill Devil Hills offers an expansive view of the Atlantic Ocean. And what might be out there has David McGowan envisioning a financial windfall for North Carolina, and the growth of an entire infrastructure to support it.

Gasoline prices at the Carrboro Food Mart gas station in April 2013
Laura Candler

Gasoline and natural gas have hit record-low prices in the last few months. It was hailed as overwhelmingly good news for consumers and the economy.

But the price you pay at the pump may not be the real cost.

“So the real cost of that gallon of gas is the price you pay at the pump plus about four dollars,” says Drew Shindell, a professor of climate change at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Shindell wrote a paper that calculates the “social cost” of energy, or the total cost to society.

sutton power plant
Duke Energy

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has fined Duke Energy more than $25 million over coal ash leaks at a retired power plant in Wilmington. 

According to DENR, it’s the largest environmental fine in the state’s history – five times higher than any previous fine. It is punishment for coal ash leaching into the ground water at the Sutton Power Plant over several years.

Contaminants included arsenic, selenium, and boron. 

Jockey's Ridge
Dave DeWitt

Governor Pat McCrory is expected to release his state budget proposal this week. It will likely spark the usual fights over Medicaid and teacher pay. But buried inside the budget will be a major reorganization of state government that could impact the millions of visitors to North Carolina’s state parks, science museums, aquariums, and even the Zoo.

The move involves the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the various attractions it manages: two science museums in Raleigh, 35 state parks, three aquariums, even Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head.

Ocean Isle
US Army Corps of Engineers

Residents of Ocean Isle Beach will get a chance Tuesday to weigh in on a proposed terminal groin project.

If it is built, the Ocean Isle terminal groin would only be the second such structure built on the North Carolina coast since a ban was put into place in 1985.

In 2011, the Legislature lifted the ban on the hardened structures that are built at the end of a land mass to stop beach erosion.

A groin is currently under construction on Bald Head Island.

UNC Board of Governors
Dave DeWitt

The full UNC Board of Governors met in Charlotte this morning and voted unanimously to close three academic centers.

The centers ordered to close are: the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at UNC Chapel Hill; the Center for Biodiversity at East Carolina; and the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at NC Central.

Board of Governors leadership denied that politics played a role.

hog farm
Steve Wing, UNC-Chapel Hill

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is launching an investigation into the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 

The investigation will look at whether DENR was too lenient in regulating hog farms that are located near minority households. 

Residents and environmental groups have complained for years that collecting manure in lagoons before spraying onto fields is harmful and creates noxious fumes.

PHOTO: The coal ash pond at the Duke Energy power plant by the Dan River
NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources

A deal has been reached to end a federal grand jury investigation into Duke Energy over the Dan River coal ash spill.

"We are accountable for what happened at Dan River and have learned from this event," said Lynn Good, president and CEO of Duke Energy, in a statement. "We are setting a new standard for coal ash management and implementing smart, sustainable solutions for all of our ash basins.”

Gene Nichol
UNC Law School

A committee of the UNC Board of Governors has recommended closing three academic centers and placing 13 others under review.

The seven-member committee started last year by looking at more than 200 academic centers on the 16 UNC system campuses. Together, the centers and institutes receive $69 million in state appropriations – a 40% drop from 2009.

The Dan River bank with residual dark grey coal ash.
Steven Alexander / USFWS

Duke Energy says it is close to a settlement with federal authorities over the Dan River coal ash spill.

After the spill last February, U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker launched a grand jury investigation.

In an earnings conference call this morning, Duke Energy CEO Lyn Good said that a $100 million settlement could be filed in the coming days.

A Suncor Energy oil rig in the North Sea's Buzzard field, between England and Norway.
Suncor Energy via Flickr

Federal authorities will welcome the public to an open house tonight in Wilmington on a plan to open the North Carolina coast to offshore oil exploration.

The Obama Administration’s five-year plan for oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean, released last month, was derided by environmental groups for going too far and criticized by Republicans for not going far enough.

Dean Smith
UNC-Chapel Hill

Dean Smith, the legendary men's college basketball coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has passed away. He was 83 years old.

"Coach Smith passed away peacefully the evening of February 7 at his home in Chapel Hill, and surrounded by his wife and five children," his family said in a statement. "We are grateful for all the thoughts and prayers, and appreciate the continued respect for our privacy as arrangements are made available to the public."

Remembering Dean Smith

Feb 8, 2015
15 Mar 1997: Coach Dean Smith of the North Carolina Tarheels gives instructions to his players during a playoff game against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Tarheels won the game 73 - 56 giving
Bo Gordy-Stith (PBoBS) / Flickr/Creative Commons

Induction into a sports Hall of Fame is a reflective moment for any athlete or coach. Nine Tar Heel players or coaches are in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and eight of them either had some connection to Dean Smith or were Dean Smith. And none missed the opportunity to thank him during their acceptance speeches:

Michael Jordan: “Coach Smith… what else can I say about him? He’s legendary in the game of coaching.”

Tom Augspurger (l), USFWS, taking core sample during February 8th reconnaissance of Dan River coal ash spill. (l-r) Tom Augsperger, USFWS, John Fridell, USFWS, Rick Smith, Duke Energy. Photo by Steve Alexander, USFWS..
Steve Alexander / USFWS

In retrospect, running a storm pipe under an unlined coal ash pit was a bad idea. One year ago today, such a pipe under such a pit leaked 39,000 tons of toxic ash into the Dan River.

A week after the spill, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks all but admitted the design was flawed.

“It was not a design that we placed in our other plants, certainly, and it was not the original design of the plant,” he said then. “So it’s something we’ll have to look at in our investigation.”

Oil drilliing
Wikipedia

The Obama Administration today released a proposal to possibly open the Atlantic Seaboard – including the coast of North Carolina - to oil exploration.

The proposal is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s five-year plan.

Testing from the 1980s estimated that as many as 3.3 billion barrels of oil could be off the Atlantic coast.

That estimate could be low.

Donald van der Vaart
DENR

From the state zoo to coal ash, from aquariums to climate change, the DENR secretary has plenty to worry about.

“I consider being the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the second-toughest job in state government,” says Bill Holman, who served as Secretary of DENR in the early 2000s, under Governor Jim Hunt.

For the record, he says leading the Department of Health and Human Services is the toughest job, but DENR Secretary is a close second.

One of Progress Energy's solar energy farms.
Duke Energy/Progress Energy

Duke Energy has announced yet another solar farm to be built in North Carolina. But this one is unique: it’s the first solar farm the utility company has ever built on a military base.

The Camp Lejeune solar farm will be a 13-megawatt facility that could power as many as 3,000 homes. That is relatively small, when compared to the 65-megawatt Duke Energy facility under construction in Duplin County.

John Fennebresque
Dave DeWitt

Tom Ross was an unlikely UNC President from the outset. He had a long career as a superior court judge, with shorter stints as president of Davidson College and head of the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation.

This morning, when he faced reporters after it was announced that he would be leaving his job – or, as the Board of Governors’ statement put it, they would “begin the process of leadership transition” – Ross looked shocked and disappointed.

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