Energy & Environment

News and information about energy, environment or both from Charlotte and the Carolinas. 

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Duke Energy

Duke Energy has agreed to pay at least $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit by environmental groups over water pollution near a now-retired coal-fired power plant in Wilmington. 

Smoke hangs on mountainsides and sits in valleys. The layer behind the mountains is from the Chimney Rock fire.
David Boraks / WFAE

Unhealthy air is now covering the region, as smokes creeps east from wildfires in western North Carolina. You can see it as you walk down the street. From above, it's even more dramatic, says . WFAE environmental reporter David Boraks. He flew over the fire zone Friday and has this report:

Map shows proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route from West Virginia to N.C.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Oil and gas pipelines planned or under construction around the country have drawn protests - from neighbors, environmentalists and Native American groups. Now it's North Carolina's turn.

Three protest walks are planned this weekend in Cumberland, Nash and Robeson counties by a group hoping to stop construction of the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Catherine Muccigrosso / LakeWyliePilot.com

Updated 4:50 p.m.
Many of the boat ramps on Lake Wylie and Lake Norman are now closed as the region's drought persists. Duke Energy announced new closings Tuesday and said remaining ramps could be closed by week's end. Meanwhile, area water systems are continuing to urge users to limit water use.

Gov. Pat McCrory talks to reporters after touring wildfire damage in Lake Lure Monday.
State of NC

Nearly 1,600 firefighters are now fighting wildfires that have burned 40,000 acres across western North Carolina over the past three weeks. Gov. Pat McCrory says the state has spent $10 million fighting the fires so far.

Trucks move coal ash at Duke's Marshall Steam Station on Lake Norman. The company plans to cover ash in place at the plant.
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy plans to leave coal ash in place at North Carolina coal ash basins where it hasn't already announced closure plans. Duke announced those plans Friday to comply with federal coal ash cleanup rules.  

supermoon illustration
NASA illustration

Look skyward overnight Sunday and early Monday and you're in for a treat: A brighter, larger full moon than usual. It's called a supermoon, and this one's especially super.

Updated 2:34 p.m.
Duke Energy says its response to Hurricane Matthew last month could end up costing about $200 million. That news came as CEO Lynn Good told Wall Street analysts the company's latest quarterly profits were up.

The nation's largest utility said warmer summer weather boosted energy use - and profits - during the quarter that ended Sept. 30.  Cost-cutting also helped lift profits to just under $1.2 billion dollars, up from $932 million a year earlier.

Avner Vengosh
Duke University

As Duke Energy and environmentalists have debated the safety of private wells near coal ash ponds, they've disagreed about the source of a carcinogen called hexavalent chromium. Scientists at Duke University figured out how to identify the chemical’s source. Conclusions from the study of 376 private wells say coal ash likely isn't to blame. WFAE's David Boraks talked with the study's lead author, Avner Vengosh about his research and recommendations.

Coal ash belmont
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation

One of the big debates over the safety of drinking water wells near coal cash ponds is whether a carcinogenic chemical called hexavalent chromium is naturally-occurring. Duke Energy says it is, while environmentalists say Duke’s coal ash ponds are to blame for polluted wells. A new Duke University study shows the chemical does occur naturally and contamination likely isn’t from coal ash. 

An Alcoa dam on Badin Lake.
Julie Rose / WFAE

The battle over hydroelectric dams on the Yadkin River is about to go another round. The state of North Carolina asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Monday to reconsider  approval of Alcoa Inc.'s dam operating license.

duke solar projects in NC map
Duke Energy

Duke Energy has put out a call to renewable energy developers for new projects in the western part of the state. It's part of the company's push to meet a state mandate to generate more energy from sources other than fossil fuels.

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

New EPA rules require power plant operators nationwide to rate the safety risks of coal ash dams and say how they plan to clean up coal ash basins. Here in the Carolinas, Duke Energy has begun publishing some information. But closure plans won't be made public until next month.

A lab technician handles water samples in June 2016 at Charlotte Water's laboratory off Billy Graham Parkway.
David Boraks / WFAE

Tests required by state and federal regulators have found no problems with lead or copper in Charlotte's water.  

Charlotte Water tested a total of 164 homes built before 1985, when lead was banned in plumbing. Just six had detectable lead levels, but all were below the federal EPA action level, according to Charlotte Water.

A worker at the U.S. National Whitewater Center releases chlorine into the basin below the rafting channel in July.
Mecklenburg County

Mecklenburg County commissioners Tuesday night unanimously approved water-quality regulations for the U.S. National Whitewater Center. That follows an Ohio teenager's death this summer from a rare brain infection she contracted after rafting at the center. 

The Neuse River inundated this hog farm in Goldsboro on Wednesday.
Rick Dove / Waterkeeper Alliance

Floodwaters in eastern North Carolina are still rising, but so far haven't swamped any of Duke Energy's active coal ash ponds. But environmentalists worry about older, dry, coal-ash basins that did flood. And they're concerned about how animal waste and dead livestock will affect water quality.

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.

Duke Energy owns eight hydroelectric plants like this one in southeastern Brazil.
Duke Energy

Updated 7:24 p.m.

Duke Energy is getting out of the electricity generating business outside the U.S., through a pair of deals  announced Monday worth $2.4 billion total.

Buck Steam Station closed in 2013. Coal ash is stored in basins around the retired plant.
Duke Energy

Duke Energy has agreed to remove about 5 million tons of coal ash in three massive dumps from the Buck Steam Station near Salisbury, and recycle it for use in concrete.  The agreement settles a federal lawsuit filed two years ago against Duke by the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of environmental groups.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission has approved Duke Energy's $6.7 billion purchase of Piedmont Natural Gas - the final approval needed for the merger. The companies said Thursday they expect to close the deal on Monday, Oct. 3.

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