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
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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Politics & Government
7:53 am
Mon June 30, 2014

NC General Assembly Stories We’re Following: Week Of Monday, June 30

The North Carolina Legislative Building
Credit NC General Assembly

North Carolina lawmakers say they want to break the impasse on a state budget this week. But those aren’t the only bills on their docket.

Leaders in the Senate and the House have been talking about Common Core and Coal Ash since they started meeting in May.

The Senate wants to consider keeping parts of Common Core, the national academic standards for public school students. The House wants to completely replace them.

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Politics & Government
8:31 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Iron Man 3, Hunger Games, Homeland, And The Tax Incentives To Film Them In NC

The TV show Homeland, and the movies Iron Man 3 and the Hunger Games were filmed in North Carolina.
Credit Showtime, Marvel Studios, Lionsgate

North Carolina could see fewer hits like Iron Man 3 or Homeland filmed in the state. That’s because tax incentives that encourage the film industry to make movies here are set to expire in January. Some lawmakers are trying to pass a measure that would give grants to the film industry to keep production companies here. But while budget negotiations are underway, time is running out to pass legislation.

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Politics & Government
8:32 am
Wed June 25, 2014

NC Senate Tentatively Approves Plan To Close Duke Energy Coal Ash Ponds Within 15 Years

Duke Energy's coal-burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Credit Riverkeeper Foundation

The North Carolina Senate has tentatively approved a plan to close Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds within 15 years.

The plan prioritizes four ponds that Republican lawmakers say are the biggest contamination threats. Duke would have to dig out all the ash and take it to dry storage.

Some Democrats want more ponds to be made high priority.

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Politics & Government
7:49 am
Tue June 24, 2014

15 Moral Monday Protesters Arrested While Chanting, Holding Signs Outside NC Senate Chamber

North Carolina General Assembly Police arrested 15 'Moral Monday' protesters outside Senate chambers on Monday.
Credit Jorge Valencia

Fifteen protesters holding signs calling for North Carolina lawmakers to expand Medicaid and unemployment benefits were arrested after refusing to stop chanting and leave an area outside of the state Senate chambers on Monday night.

The protest, the latest in the "Moral Monday" rallies that started last year, included hundreds of more demonstrators who met behind the state Legislative Building in Raleigh and organized in an area on the second and third floors between the Senate and House chambers.

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Politics & Government
7:51 am
Fri June 20, 2014

House Committee Recommends Medicaid Payment Changes

Credit Jorge Valencia

A committee in the state House of Representatives is recommending a plan to reform Medicaid insurance for people who are poor or disabled.

The proposal says a majority of Medicaid patients would be treated by providers who receive a fixed amount of money per patient.

The governor’s office shows support for the bill. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos praised it in a committee hearing Thursday.

"We are very pleased with the House bill that it closely aligns with Gov. McCrory's medicaid reform plan," Wos said.

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Politics & Government
8:25 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Undocumented College Students Walk From Charlotte To Raleigh Asking For In-State Tuition

Elver Barrios (center) and a few dozen other students held a mock graduation for undocumented immigrants behind the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh.
Credit Jorge Valencia

Five students walked 140 miles from Charlotte to Raleigh over the last 10 days to ask state lawmakers for in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

Elver Barrios, a computer engineering student at Johnson C. Smith University, and one of the advocates, says that when the group left last week, momentum seemed on their side.

"We were really excited on the first day of walking," he says.

But walking 15 miles a day means blisters on the feet and lots of sun on the face. It turns out there’s not much shade between Charlotte and Raleigh.

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Politics & Government
7:49 am
Tue June 17, 2014

NC Senate Leaders Want Duke Energy To Close Its Coal Ash Ponds Within 15 Years

Credit Waterkeeper Alliance

At the North Carolina General Assembly, key members of the Senate will take their first vote today on a coal ash proposal. Lawmakers have been grappling all year with possible contamination from 33 coal ash ponds Duke Energy has across the state.

The problem is not new. North Carolina has been accumulating coal ash for most of the past century. Power companies burn coal to generate electricity, cool off the remaining ash with water and then pour it into ponds and keep it there.

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Politics & Government
7:42 am
Mon June 16, 2014

NC General Assembly Stories We’re Following: Week Of Monday, June 16

Photo: The North Carolina Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh
Credit Jorge Valencia

North Carolina’s General Assembly leadership is expected to begin negotiations this week to reconcile two proposals for the state’s $21.1 billion budget, a legislation that touches many aspects of government, but has centered on how to give pay raises to public school teachers.

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