Natural Gas

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

Duke Energy Progress says it will convert another power plant from coal to natural gas.

Duke Energy's plans for the facility at Lake Julian in Asheville are another indication that the energy giant is increasingly relying on natural gas, in part because of its falling price. 

The utility calls the transition for Asheville a "win-win:" cleaner energy and more jobs. Environmentalists say natural gas has its own negative consequences.

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.

A crude oil mining site in Oxnard, Calif.
Faces of Fracking

State environmental officials might not have to adopt air quality standards for fracking. A controversial measure that would passed a key committee in the legislature yesterday.

Rep. Mike Hagar (R-Rutherford), who sponsored the measure, says there are already federal rules governing air quality at fracking sites.

"We're not going to re-write rules that are already out there," he says. "That's inefficient. That costs the taxpayers money for people to go work doing stuff they don't need to do."

A Marcellus Shale drill rig in Pennsylvania used in the fracking process.
Ken Skipper, USGS

New research from Duke University's Energy Initiative shows that revenue from oil and gas drilling tends to cover its costs to local governments.

Policy Researcher Daniel Raimi says the drilling boom caused an enormous population boom and demanded expensive infrastructure upgrades in the remote Bakken Oil Fields of North Dakota.  But, he says, leases and taxes from the industry also increased the budgets of local governments.

Photo: A drilling site in northeastern Louisiana.
Daniel Foster via Flickr

A Duke University study exonerates hydraulic fracturing from contaminating drinking water at sites in Pennsylvania and Texas. Instead, researchers blame faulty shale gas wells for leaking methane into the water, sometimes making it flammable.

A picture of segments of pipeline.
Harald Hoyer / Creative Commons

Two North Carolina power companies have announced plans to build a pipeline, connecting to natural gas supplies in the Northeast. 

Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas say the pipeline will stretch 550 miles from eastern North Carolina to West Virginia.  That state has a distribution center that gathers natural gas from its own drilling operations, as well as those in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

A picture of two people shaking hands.
wikihow.com

Just a month after the General Assembly voted to allow fracking in North Carolina, landowners in Chapel Hill and Durham are receiving offers to buy the right to drill on their properties.

But these offers are suspicious, and the Department of Justice is investigating them. The documents say they were sent from a Pennsylvania company called Crimson Holding Corporation. It doesn't have a web site, and claims the same address as another company called Campbell Development. Neither is licensed to do business in this state.

A picture of segments of pipeline.
Harald Hoyer / Creative Commons

PSNC Energy is taking feedback from property owners about plans to lay a natural gas pipeline. The company wants to extend an existing transmission line from Northern Wake County into Eastern Franklin County and south to Zebulon.

PSNC Spokeswoman Angela Townsend said the company is working to keep up with anticipated population growth in the area. She did not comment on the projected increase of customers or pipeline capacity. Townsend said the extension would be up to 29 miles long.

Photo: A drilling site in Rio Blanco and Garfield counties, CO.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via Flickr

The commission that’s writing North Carolina’s rules on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, or fracking, is getting ready to present its recommendations to the General Assembly. The Mining and Energy Commission has been working since Sept. 2012, and today will debate the last eight rules it is preparing.

A few people like Sharon Garbutt have been following the Mining and Energy Commission. Garbutt has been volunteering to take children on field trips to the Haw River for 20 years. Most of the time, the kids love it.

A map of Triassic basins in NC.
NC DENR

Energy speculators snapped up natural gas drilling leases over Lee County's Triassic shale in a frenzy in 2009. But some energy speculators have begun relinquishing their claims.

In February, Denver-based WhitMar Exploration walked away from a leasing agreement for more than 2,700 acres. That's according to records at the Lee County Register of Deeds.

WhitMar declined to comment to WUNC, but told other media outlets that North Carolina is moving too slowly on hydraulic fracturing.

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