DEQ

Gov. Roy Cooper (seated) signed Executive Order 80 in 2018 at SAS Institute's solar farm in Cary.  With him were DEQ Secretary Michael Regan (right) and SAS executive Jerry Williams.
NCDEQ

With the federal government's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, state and local governments in North Carolina have set their own ambitious goals for addressing climate change. Now, they're puzzling over how to carry out the big changes needed to reach those goals - such as switching to electric vehicles and shifting to more renewable energy. At least for now, it's still mostly data-gathering and discussion. 

water faucet and glass
Pixabay

A new report says North Carolina had the fourth highest budget cuts in the country over the last decade when it comes to environmental protection.

A worker delivers bottled water to a home in Belmont, near Duke Energy's Allen coal plant. Duke will provide a permament drinking water supply to well owners by 2018.
David Boraks / WFAE

People who live near Duke Energy's North Carolina coal ash dumps on Thursday marked 1,000 days of living on bottled water, amid fears that their wells are contaminated. They're calling on lawmakers to adopt stronger groundwater standards to prevent contamination of private wells. And they want Duke to dig up and secure coal ash statewide - not just at a few sites as now required.

Duke Energy's Marshall Plant on Lake Norman has about 32 million tons of coal ash stored on site.
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy has agreed to pay an $84,000 fine and will speed up coal ash cleanups at three coal-fired power plants in western North Carolina. The proposed agreement with state environmental regulators deals with pollutants seeping from coal ash ponds near the Marshall plant on Lake Norman, the Allen plant in Gaston County and the Rogers plant in Rutherford County.

NCDEQ

Former state environmental secretary Donald van der Vaart has resigned from the Department of Environmental Quality, amid an investigation.  A DEQ spokeswoman confirmed his departure Wednesday.  

After Democrat Roy Cooper defeated Republican Governor Pat McCrory a year ago, state environmental secretary Donald van der Vaart gave up his office. After all, he was a McCrory appointee. But he didn't leave the agency. Instead he demoted himself and the department's No. 2 official, John Evans, to staff positions. The two men have since spoken out on policy issues, sometimes at odds with state policy. Now the Department of Environmental Quality has put the van der Vaart and Evans on paid  "investigatory leave."  WFAE's David Boraks joins "All Things Considered" host Mark Rumsey to talk about the situation.

Michael Regan
N.C. Department of Environmental Quality

A federal appeals court has granted a request by the state Department of Environmental Quality to withdraw its legal challenge to former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan. The move comes amid a changing of the guard in both Raleigh and Washington, where the Trump administration has said it plans to cancel the rules.

Workers cut down trees and shrubs then installed a plastic liner, soil and a fiber mat cover on this slope near the former Carolina Asbestos plant in Davidson. Last fall, environmental officials found asbestos running off from the hill.
David Boraks / WFAE

Contractors have finished installing a plastic liner, fresh earth and a fiber mat over an asbestos site at the Metrolina Warehouse near downtown Davidson. Last fall, runoff was discovered flowing from a slope behind the old mill, at 301 Depot St.  in Davidson.

Green "filter socks" are designed to control runoff behind the old Carolina Asbestos plant in Davidson.  The trees will be removed and the hill full of asbestos covered starting next week.
David Boraks / WFAE

Updated Friday, Jan. 27, 2017
Despite the Trump administration's freeze on new Environmental Protection Agency contracts, a federal cleanup of asbestos found at homes in Davidson remains on track. In addition, state officials say work will start next week to cap asbestos that spilled near an old factory in the neighborhood. 

The Metrolina Warehouse in Davidson was an asbestos factory from 1930 to 1960.
David Boraks / WFAE

A plan to redevelop an old mill in downtown Davidson has led to the discovery - or re-discovery - of disease-causing asbestos on the site and around the neighborhood. As officials figure out how to clean it up, historical fears and concerns have surfaced as well.

A 50-foot section of a cooling pond dam broke at Duke Energy's plant on the Neuse River in Goldsboro. The company says coal ash ponds are not in danger.
Travis Graves / Lower Neuse Riverkeeper

Forty-eight counties have seen flooding from Hurricane Matthew, and waters are still rising in some areas. State officials are watching dams, checking reports of chemical and fuel spills, and starting to count crop and livestock losses.

dan river coal ash cleanup
David Boraks / WFAE

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says coal ash ponds and landfills disproportionately affect poor and minority communities across the U.S. But that’s not what North Carolina officials found when they conducted their own “environmental justice reviews” of two sites this year.

Amy Brown of Belmont lives near Duke's Allen Steam Station and has been receiving bottled water since 2015. She spoke at a rally in March.
David Boraks / WFAE

This week Governor Pat McCrory's office accused a state toxicologist of lying under oath. That came after that toxicologist testified in a lawsuit to force Duke Energy to remove coal ash from one of its North Carolina plants. The testimony has ignited another round of debate over whether well water near Duke coal plants is safe to drink. WFAE environmental reporter David Boraks talked with All Things Considered host Lisa Worf about the news.   

David Boraks / WFAE

Updated 6:09 p.m.
House lawmakers on Wednesday voted 86-25 to approve a bill that would change the rules for Duke Energy’s cleanups of coal ash across the state. It’s a controversial bill that has drawn the opposition of Gov. Pat McCrory and state regulators.  

Coal ash belmont
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation

Neighbors of Duke Energy's coal ash ponds in Gaston and Rowan counties say they like Duke's proposal this week to provide safe, permanent water supplies. But they also worry it could mean they’ll have to continue to live with coal ash.

Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation

  North Carolina regulators next month will assign risk ratings to Duke Energy’s coal ash storage sites around the state. The ratings determine how and when the ash will be cleaned up. But what exactly does “cleanup” mean? There’s a big debate.

Duke Energy's now-closed Cape Fear Steam Station is one of three covered in the ruling. Duke Energy is planning to excavate coal ash from several ponds at the site, and transfer it to the nearby Brickhaven land fill.
Duke Energy

A superior court judge in Raleigh has ordered Duke Energy to remove coal ash from three plants in eastern North Carolina. The ruling comes in lawsuits filed by environmentalists in 2013. 

State environmental officials are suing the federal EPA again, this time over North Carolina’s possible inclusion on a list of states that contribute to air quality problems in the Northeast.