Jorge Valencia

Capitol Reporter

Jorge Valencia joined North Carolina Public Radio's reporting team in 2013. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station in 2012. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun. On Twitter: @jorgeavalencia.

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Politics & Government
4:47 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Public Will Be Able To Comment On NC’s Fracking Rules At Hearings In Raleigh, Sanford and Reidsville

A drilling site in northeastern Louisiana.
Credit Daniel Foster via Flickr

The North Carolina commission that is drafting rules for hydraulic fracturing will host public comment hearings next month.
 
Members of the Mining and Energy Commission have spent nearly two years writing more than 120 rules. They cover issues including where drilling companies can frack and whether they have to disclose the chemicals they use in the process.
 
Amy Pickle, the commission's rules chairwoman, says she expects plenty of comments on whether fracking should happen at all.
 

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Politics & Government
7:28 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Police In NC Could Start Tracking License Plates On State Highways

The North Carolina Department of Transportation could give law enforcement agencies photos of license plates on state highways under a new proposal tentatively approved by the state Senate.
Credit Flickr user Tom

The North Carolina Senate has tentatively approved a bill that would allow police to use photo cameras on state roads to track license plates.

The idea is that the cameras would take pictures of license plates, and police could use them to, for example, find a fugitive. Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford) says that could have helped Guilford County investigators on a recent case.

"Had this technology been available, at a right of way, it would've been possible to track down the individual who had committed the crime," Robinson says.

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Politics & Government
10:19 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Moped Drivers: Should They Be Requried To Register Their Mopeds And Buy Insurance?

Credit Lars Elmo via Flickr

A North Carolina Senate committee wants to require moped owners to register their mopeds and buy insurance.

In North Carolina, mopeds owners can travel on roads without registering their vehicle at the Department of Motor Vehicle, owning insurance or having a valid driver's license.

Some members of the General Assembly have been trying for years to change that. Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Hendersonville), told the senate finance committee on Tuesday morning that there's no financial liability for a moped driver if he crashes into a car.

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Environment
6:09 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Jordan Lake’s Managers Authorize Lake-Stirring Trial To Prevent Algae Growth

A SolarBee machine
Credit Medora Corp.

State environment officials expect to install 36-solar powered water mixers into Jordan Lake by the end of the month, as part of a two-year trial to find out whether the mixers can prevent algae from growing in the lake, they said.  

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Politics & Government
9:57 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Three Pending Bills Remain In The General Assembly As The End Of Session Nears

Credit Ian Usher via Flickr

As budget writers at the North Carolina General Assembly are meeting this week to work toward an agreement on the state's spending plan, there about a dozen more bills they have not yet approved.
 
Some, such as a bill to clean up Duke Energy's 33 coal ash ponds to prevent contamination to the state's waterways, or a bill to repeal parts of the national Common Core academic standards for public school student performance, have been promoted as high priorities by lawmakers since they convened in May, and are likely to be negotiated and sent to Gov. Pat McCrory for signature.

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Politics & Government
8:43 am
Tue July 8, 2014

NC Utilities Commission Reconsiders Solar Energy Cost, Possibly Affecting Industry's Future

The construction of a photovoltaic array at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY.
Credit Brookhaven National Laboratory

Environmental groups say hearings underway in Raleigh could determine whether North Carolina’s solar energy industry continues to grow at a rapid pace.

North Carolina has recently become one of the country’s top solar states. It’s number four, after California, Arizona and New Jersey.

Duke Energy and Dominion Power are required to make or buy certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources, including solar, wind and hog and poultry waste. The state utilities commission is reviewing how much energy companies should have to pay for that energy.

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Politics & Government
7:38 am
Mon July 7, 2014

This Week At The NC General Assembly: Focusing On A Final Budget

Credit NC General Assembly

North Carolina lawmakers say they'll have a busy next few days hashing out differences in their state budget plans.

It's likely there will be fewer lawmakers roaming around the legislative building this week. A select group of Senate and House negotiators are expected to hunker down and focus on the state's spending plan. They'll need to resolve differences in their adjustments to the budget for this fiscal year.

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Politics & Government
6:41 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

NC House Approves Plan For Coal Ash Clean Up, Sends It To Senate

Some 39,000 tons of ash leaked from a pond in Eden, N.C., into the Dan River in February.
Credit Riverkeeper Foundation

The state House of Representatives has signed off on a plan to close and clean up Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds.

The ash in the ponds is a contamination threat to waterways. And Duke Energy says it could cost up to 10-billion dollars to remove all of it.

In a House debate today, Democratic leader Larry Hall asked who would pay for the clean up.

"The rate payers really should not be penalized further in this bill," Hall said."That's the big elephant in the room."

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Politics & Government
8:04 am
Thu July 3, 2014

NC House, After Heated Debate, Tentatively Approves Coal Ash Bill

The cleanup for the 2008 Tennessee coal ash disaster. Image taken March 2012.
Credit Appalachian Voices / via Creative Commons/Flickr

At the General Assembly, lawmakers are getting close to finalizing a bill outlining the future of Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds. Lawmakers have been looking into the situation since February, when 39,000 tons of ash leaked from one pond and coated the Dan River with gray sludge.

The issue of 100 million tons of coal ash in ponds across the state has been slowly growing over the past century.

Utility companies burned coal to generate electricity, cooled off the ashes by mixing them with water, and dumped them into unlined ponds.

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Politics & Government
9:39 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

NC Governor Would Get More Authority Over Coal Ash Commission Under House Committee Proposal

Duke Energy's coal burning facility near Salisbury, N.C.
Credit Waterkeeper Alliance

Members of a North Carolina House of Representatives committee are expected to debate on Wednesday a new proposal to prevent contamination from 33 coal ash ponds Duke Energy owns across the state.

The proposal, which was released to members of the House environment committee on Tuesday, would move a commission overseeing the cleanup under the oversight of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (under a previous proposal, the commission would have been independent) and grants the governor authority to appoint the chair of the nine-person body.

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