Dave Dewitt

Photo: UNC Board of Governors Chair Louis Bisette and UNC President Margaret Spellings
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

 The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors has been caught up in a number of controversies this year. 

UNC Board of Governor's Committee
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

In a committee meeting of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Tuesday, members voted to approve a litigation ban on the UNC Center for Civil Rights

The old well at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.
Tim Schleicher / flickr, Creative Commons

Legislative leaders are at odds with environmentalists over a new policy initiative at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The state budget sets aside $1 million for scientists to conduct environmental research and make public policy recommendations. But some professors worry about potential ties to the legislature that could pressure them to sway their findings for political gain.

Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC's Dave DeWitt about the new program, which has been dubbed the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory.

US Embassy Canada / Flickr Creative Commons

North Carolina is one of the leading states in solar energy. 

But the recent elimination of some tax credits and the possibility of solar permitting may slow the growth of solar energy in the state. And the Department of Environmental Quality is considering a change to the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards that could affect renewable energy production in the state. 

Image of bottled water provided by Duke Energy to families affected by the coal ash spill.
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Next month will mark two years since 40,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of contaminated water flowed into Dan River as a result of a Duke Energy spill. The electric utility giant is working to clean up the coal ash at multiple sites across the state.

But legal infighting and regulatory delays have stalled progress at 10 of the 14 sites. Meanwhile some residents are afraid to drink out of their tap.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality says Duke Energy will have to excavate most of its coal ash pits in North Carolina.

A new report says 20 pits have to be cleaned up rather than covered, but environmental groups think that number should be higher and point to an earlier draft report that identified 27 pits for excavation. 

Image of wood pellets, which are causing an environmental controversy in North Carolina. Though the energy source is carbon neutral in theory, that's not always true in practice.
Andrew_Writer / Flickr Creative Commons

The wood pellet industry is booming in North Carolina, thanks in part to high demand from Europe. Power plants burn the wood product to create energy, but wood pellet companies are cutting down trees at a higher rate than anticipated, raising questions about whether the practice really is carbon neutral.

Faith Community Church
NC Warn

State regulators meet this week to decide whether to expedite the implementation of a new law that would change environmental standards.

It includes a cut to the number of air quality monitors in the state and allows companies to avoid fines if they self-report an environmental violation. 

UNC Board of Governors
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The UNC Board of Governors is deeply divided over how to elect a new leader.

Some board members have called for the resignation of chair John Fennebresque after he called an emergency closed-door meeting to interview a candidate.

Emails reveal several board members accused Fennebresque of botching the hiring process which started after President Tom Ross was forced to resign earlier this year. 

The division represents a split within the Republican members of the board.

Jordan Lake, Durham, NC
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

State lawmakers have 10 days before the latest temporary budget expires.

The House and Senate are trying to reconcile their $21 billion spending plans, and among the sticking points are environmental issues, including the state's solar energy tax credit, renewable energy standards, and water quality requirements for Jordan Lake.

Coal fired power plant in Wyoming
Greg Goebel / Flickr Creative Commons

Earlier this week the Obama Administration announced its EPA Clean Power Plan that directs states to lower greenhouse gas emissions from coal-burning power plants by around 32 percent by 2030.

Wind Energy In NC

Jul 16, 2015
Wind turbines
Martin Pettitt / Flickr Creative Commons

A stretch of land that was once called “The Desert” by locals is now the site of a potential new economy in North Carolina: wind energy.

And the market for the energy produced by the wind farms already has a buyer: Amazon. Meanwhile, the legislature continues to debate environmental deregulation measures.

Image of geovisualization of potential inundation due to sea level rise in the Albemarle- Pamlico Estuarine System.
East Carolina University (Brent Gore, Matt Carey, Travis Hill and Michelle Covi)

A few weeks ago, the ocean washed away a 200-foot stretch of Highway 12 in Kitty Hawk.

It wasn’t destroyed by a hurricane or a Nor'easter. It was just another storm. Geologists say it is one more example of how life is changing along the North Carolina coast, thanks in part to the rising sea level. 

A view of Duke Energy's Marshall Steam Station from the public entrance off N.C. Highway 150.
Cdtew / Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers recently negotiated a deal that originally would have weakened North Carolina's requirements for renewables as one source of the state's energy portfolio.

Instead, the House agreed to study the matter further. 

The deal is just one example of how policymakers are considering significant changes to North Carolina's energy policies, from coal ash regulations to environmental rules on new developments.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

    

This week, Duke Energy has paid $171 million to shareholders and the state of North Carolina.

The first bill was for $146 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the company misled shareholders when it agreed to a merger with Progress Energy in 2012. The other $25 million was a fine from the state for spilling coal ash at a power plant in Wilmington.

Meanwhile, the conversation continues about how to dispose of the coal ash sitting at 14 sites across the state.

Guest host Phoebe Judge gets an update from WUNC environment reporter Dave DeWitt.

Protesters disrupt UNC board debate about poverty center.
https://twitter.com/adv_project

Over the protests of students, the UNC Board of Governors moved forward with tuition and fee increases, as well as the controversial decision to close three academic centers in UNC system.

Guest host Phoebe Judge talks with WUNC reporter Dave Dewitt about the decisions and the outcries from faculty and students about 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 North Carolina Central.

A representation of the university seal, located in front of South Building. Dedicated by the class of 1989, it marks UNC's exact geographic location.
commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Yeungb

    

 A panel of the UNC System Board of Governors recommended the elimination of three campus-based centers and on-going assessment of 13 others yesterday. 

The working group suggested the closure of the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at UNC-Chapel Hill; the NC Center for Biodiversity at East Carolina University; and the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at NC Central University. 

An oil rig off the California Coast.
Marianne Muegenburg Cothern

  The U.S. Department of the Interior released a proposal this week that paves the way for energy companies to search for oil in the Atlantic, including off the North Carolina coast. 

Seventy new charter schools have applied to become part of North Carolina’s growing population of alternative public schools. For the longest time, the number of charter schools in the state was capped at 100, but lawmakers changed that back in 2011.

The Day After

Nov 7, 2012

The results are in, and Democratic candidate Barack Obama is president. But while the country went blue, North Carolina is now colored solidly red. The Republican Party has its firmest grip on the state in 20 years, taking the governor’s mansion, the House and the Senate. How should we interpret the Republican victory in North Carolina in the midst of Democrats retaining the White House and strengthening their hold on the United States Senate? And what does the Republican stronghold in Raleigh mean for policy across our state?

Leaving No Child Left Behind

Jun 1, 2012

Although put into law with bipartisan support in 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act has failed to create a good accountability system to best serve schools. Due to its shortcomings, many states have petitioned for exemption from the act. This Tuesday, President Obama granted eight states, including North Carolina, exemptions from the most rigorous parts of No Child Left Behind in exchange for state-developed accountability systems. Host Frank Stasio is joined by Dave Dewitt, WUNC’s education reporter, to take a look at the changes and their potential effects.