NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources

State Officials To Scrap SolarBee Project On Jordan Lake

May 6, 2016
A SolarBee
Medora Corporation

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality announced it will halt the SolarBee pilot project, saying the floating mixers are not improving water quality in Jordan Lake.

Launched two years ago, the SolarBee project was intended to prevent the growth of algae in the lake. But state officials say there’s been no significant improvement in water quality.

Environmental advocates agree.

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

A standing-room-only crowd packed a state government board room in Raleigh last night to express their thoughts on North Carolina’s commitment to climate change.

A SolarBee
Medora Corporation

North Carolina is home to seven natural lakes. Jordan Lake—despite its name—is not one of them. It’s a reservoir, created in 1974.

And almost from the day it was first dammed, Jordan Lake has been impaired.


The General Assembly may halt an effort by the state agency tasked with managing fisheries to limit flounder catches.

Last month, the Marine Fisheries Commission was supposed to vote on setting limits on southern flounder, a staple on restaurant menus across the state and a $4.8 million business for commercial fishermen.

Those limits included raising the minimum size limit to 15 inches, implementing a total allowable catch limit for commercial harvest, the prohibition of large-mesh gill nets and no further reductions to the recreational limits.

Marshall Steam Station
Duke Energy

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has released more test results of water wells near three Duke Energy power plants.

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

The North Carolina Senate has passed a bill that would prohibit any state agency from fully complying with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

The Obama Administration announced the EPA Clean Power Plan earlier this week. It directs each state to develop an individualized plan to cut coal-plant emissions by 32 percent by 2030.

Duke Energy plant
Duke Energy

A few days after the General Assembly passed the Coal Ash Management Act last fall, Governor Pat McCrory recorded a video and made a claim many in his Republican party have since proudly repeated.

“This bill makes North Carolina the national leader in acknowledging and attacking the coal ash problem that has been building for more than half a century,” McCrory says in the video.

Acknowledging and attacking hasn’t, so far, led to any moving of coal ash. And as far as being a national leader, it’s actually one of our neighbors - South Carolina – that may lay a better claim, says Frank Holleman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

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

Some residents who live near coal ash sites owned by Duke Energy are being told not to drink or cook with water that comes from their wells.

Eighty-seven of the 117 letters (pdf) sent by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources so far have indicated that well water exceeded state groundwater standards for some toxic heavy metals.

Dave DeWitt

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is recommending that vehicle emission testing is no longer necessary in many North Carolina counties. 

The DENR report, ordered by the Legislature in 2013, says that emission testing of cars and trucks in as many as 31 counties could be eliminated by next year. 

sutton power plant
Duke Energy

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has fined Duke Energy more than $25 million over coal ash leaks at a retired power plant in Wilmington. 

According to DENR, it’s the largest environmental fine in the state’s history – five times higher than any previous fine. It is punishment for coal ash leaching into the ground water at the Sutton Power Plant over several years.

Contaminants included arsenic, selenium, and boron. 

Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker, Gov. Pat McCrory, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla
Jorge Valencia

There will be some key changes to Governor Pat McCory’s cabinet in the New Year. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker is stepping down. And Environment Secretary John Skvarla will be the new head of the commerce department. The two positions are central to the governor's plan to attract businesses to North Carolina.

The governor feels very passionately about the members of his cabinet, or as he prefers to call it: his team. Yesterday, he was in front of a crowd in the historic chambers of the Old Capitol building, and beside him was Sharon Decker.

 A beach swimmer on the Carolina coast. Officials warn of strong rip tide currents.
Billy Hathorn, Creative Commons

State officials want to hear from the public as they review an upcoming seismic testing project off the coast of North Carolina. 

The National Science Foundation plans to survey the sea floor this fall near several Atlantic states.  Scientists say they want to know more about how our continental crust shifted and stretched. 

They will use up to 36 seismic air guns, which release highly pressurized blasts of air.  Environmentalists have said that will injure marine life and could disrupt migration patterns. 

North Carolina Air Pollution
Doug Bradley / Flickr


Stronger emission controls in North Carolina are closely associated with declining death rates from respiratory illnesses like asthma and emphysema, according to a Duke University study released this week. 

North Carolina Air Pollution
Doug Bradley / Flickr

That's not an easy question to answer.

Earlier this week, eight Northern states filed a petition with the EPA alleging that states from the South and Midwest are producing enough smog that it's affecting the air quality downwind. But how much can be blamed on North Carolina?

On the face of it, it's likely that some of North Carolina's air pollution does seep across state lines.

Strata Solar

Policy-makers and business leaders say North Carolina’s economic future relies on energy.

Governor Pat McCrory was one of many speakers and panelists at the North Carolina Chamber's Energy Conference at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center in Durham.  McCrory said it’s time to follow the economic recoveries of Ohio, Pennsylvania and the Dakotas.


Conservation groups will begin an effort next year to clear debris from North Carolina waterways.  Fishermen have told coastal organizations that many spots where they drop lines are littered with old crab pots and debris hidden deep in the water. 

The North Carolina Coastal Federation is leading a two-year project to clean up state waters from StumpyPoint to the Virginia line.  Ladd Bayliss is one of the federation's coastal advocates.

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.


Engineers in Raleigh's Storm Water Utilities Department are planning to replace dams protecting some capital city neighborhoods.  Each project is expected to begin next year with costs into the millions of dollars.

The Tuckasegee River at Bryson City, North Carolina.
Brian Stansberry, Wikimedia, Creative Commons

North Carolina is not keeping up with the Environmental Protection Agency's rules to measure water quality. 

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has not updated its standards of measuring toxic metals in water since 2007.  The Clean Water Act requires states to hold public hearings and review their rules every three years.  North Carolina is the only state in the EPA's southeast division that has not adopted the latest federal rules. 

Nancy Pierce Photo / DO NOT USE

Two public hearings are scheduled this week in the ongoing fight over whether Alcoa should be allowed to continue operating dams on the Yadkin River. 

The hydroelectric dams are about 60 miles south of the Triad, and they powered Alcoa’s aluminum plant in Badin for decades. The factory is now closed, but Alcoa is seeking another 50-year federal license to operate the dams and sell the electricity on the open market.

The Seal of the State of North Carolina
North Carolina Government / North Carolina

A variety of measures aimed at weakening environmental protections are making their way through the General Assembly. One would limit environmental regulations while another would repeal a six-year-old renewable energy policy. Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is changing its mission statement to reflect an emphasis on customer service, a move some call anti-science.

Coastal plain counties where the groundwater is improving.
NC Division of Water Resources

Officials with the state Division of Water Resources say a new report shows great improvement in groundwater levels over a 15-county area in eastern North Carolina. According to state officials, deep-well, freshwater aquifers in the coastal plain have to stay above full capacity to keep from mixing with saltwater.  If they were to mix, cities would have to spend money to filter out saltwater to make their water is safe to drink.

The Fracas over Fracking

May 25, 2012

Just a few years ago North Carolina state geologists began reporting that prehistoric geologic formations beneath our feet may be good candidates for shale and gas deposits. The only way to release such deposits is through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Other states like Pennsylvania and New York have legalized fracking in recent years, but have had to retroactively enact regulations on the practice. North Carolina wants to do it differently.

Hannah Shaw
Leoneda Inge

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources got an earful last night in Chapel Hill as the debate over natural gas exploration heats up.  Scientists and everyday citizens packed East Chapel Hill High School to have their say on DENR’s draft report on hydraulic fracturing, sometimes known as “fracking.”  That’s the controversial process used to extract natural gas from shale rock underground.  An overwhelming number of voices at the hearing were against fracking and the negative impact they worry it could have on the environment here.

Opponents and supporters of hydraulic fracturing made their cases at a public hearing in Sanford last night.

Ray Covington of the group North Carolina Oil and Gas said about 600 people turned out to comment on "fracking," the controversial process used to extract natural gas deposits from shale rock. He praised a recent report from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, finding that fracking can be done safely in the state with proper regulation.