EPA

Photo: A Duke Energy coal-fired plant in Arden, N.C.
Michael Phillips via Creative Commons

The North Carolina House of Representatives has approved a plan to comply with proposed federal requirements to curb planet-warming carbon pollution from power plants.

House Bill 571 would create an advisory board comprised of energy companies and environmental advocates to advise the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The bill, approved in an 84-33 vote, now goes before the Senate.

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.

US Fish and Wildlife Service responds to coal ash spill on Dan River
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.

Trees in Chapel Hill,
Laura Candler

The EPA proposed sweeping changes to the country's carbon emission regulations. The coal is to cut carbon pollution by 30% by 2030 - relying more heavily on renewable energy sources to generate electricity.

Jonas Monast is the Director of the Climate and Energy Program at Duke University's Nicholas Institute. He says that North Carolina is well positioned for the changes that will be required.

EPA Workers
Leoneda Inge

One of the largest EPA offices outside of Washington DC is in Research Triangle Park.  That means some 2,000 employees are at home and not working during the government shut-down.  But on Tuesday, a few dozen EPA workers could be found spending their un-wanted time off doing community service. 

The hydraulic fracturing (fracking) water cycle.
Environmental Protection Agency

North Carolina environmental officials have said "no" to a federal grant to check water quality in areas where fracking may occur.  The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources says the money from the EPA would only pay for salaries of people brought in to do testing. 

Division of Water Resources director Tom Reeder says DENR doesn't need them.

EPA Air Monitor Bench
Leoneda Inge

The Environmental Protection Agency has developed a new way to monitor air pollution and it includes a park bench.  There’s a new bench outside the South Regional Public Library in Durham . It’s the only one of its kind in the country.  If you sit down – and look up – you see solar panels and a spinning wind sensor.  And you can use your smart phone to scan a QR barcode to get up to the minute air quality stats.

Riverbend Steam Station, a coal-fired generating facility in Gaston County, NC.  Riverbend will be retired by 2015 as part of Duke Energy’s strategy to modernize its power plants.
Duke Energy via Flickr, Creative Commons

A new study from Duke University says new air quality standards could spur a shift away from coal power to natural gas as a means of generating electricity.  A natural gas boom has already made it almost as cheap as coal to turn into electricity, but when researchers factored in new emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency, they found that most coal electricity will become as expensive as gas, even if gas prices rise.

About 20 private wells in a Wake Forest neighborhood have been found to be contaminated with a toxic degreasing agent. Kenneth Rhame is a federal on-scene coordinator with the Environmental Protection Agency. He says one home off Stony Hill Road had concentrations of TCE more than 65 times the safe drinking limit.

An exemption for biomass facilities from carbon dioxide limits under the Clean Air Act is being challenged in court. The Environmental Protection Agency is exempting biomass facilities from the rules for the next three years because they're considered carbon-neutral or low-carbon emitters. Frank Rambo is the senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center working on that case.

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