Energy & Environment

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

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Map shows high temperatures for the mid-Atlantic region. Bright yellow signals temperatures in the 90s.
National Weather Service

With temperatures soaring last week, Duke Energy customers in North and South Carolina set a record for summertime energy use. Duke says customers used 20,671 megawatt hours of electricity between 4 and 5 pm on Wednesday, July 27. That beat the previous record of 20,628 megawatts set in 2007.

David Boraks / WFAE

If you're on a North Carolina mountaintop on a sunny day this summer, expect a great view…  maybe the clearest in decades. State environmental officials say it’s the payoff from years of air quality improvements.

 A geologist with decades of expertise in climate change and coastal erosion has resigned from the state science advisory panel he helped found. Stan Riggs says politics have made the panel "ineffective."

WFAE

The heat is back, and that's pushing power plants to the limit. Duke Energy is testing a new way to trim demand – with a competition that challenges customers to turn off the A/C on days when electricity demand is highest. Monday was one of those days. 

State regulators wrapped up a two-day public hearing in Raleigh Tuesday afternoon on the proposed merger of Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas. The two-day hearing included testimony from company leaders and a protest by merger opponents.

Executives including CEOs Lynn Good of Duke and Thomas Skains of Piedmont argued the $6.7 billion deal would create a stronger company and speed Duke's shift toward cleaner-burning natural gas.

A public hearing starts Monday in Raleigh on Duke Energy's planned acquisition of Piedmont Natural Gas. Approval by the North Carolina Utilities Commission is the deal's final hurdle. 

Duke announced last October it was buying Piedmont for $6.7 billion. That includes $4.9 billion in cash and taking over $1.8 billion in Piedmont debt. Piedmont has two things Duke wants:  

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

Updated 11 p.m.
Governor Pat McCrory has signed a bill that will allow Duke Energy to store coal ash in place permanently at as many as half its plants in North Carolina. The bill also provides a permanent water supply to neighbors of Duke's coal ash ponds. 

N.C. Department of Environmental Quality


  Follow-up tests last week found no arsenic in Mountain Island Lake, according to a report from the state Department of Environmental Quality.  

Tests last month had found arsenic at nearly 10 times federal limits, near where Duke Energy was draining water from coal ash ponds at the Riverbend plant in Mount Holly.  

An Alcoa dam on Badin Lake.
Julie Rose / WFAE

Updated 6:15pm
After nearly a century generating power in North Carolina, aluminum maker Alcoa is selling its four hydroelectric dams along the Yadkin River. The buyer is a Maryland company that bills itself as a producer of clean energy.

Duke Energy

 State regulators have delivered another blow to environmentalists trying to block a new power plant in Asheville.  The North Carolina Utilities Commission says two groups must post a $98 million bond before they can appeal.

That's nearly 10 times the amount regulators originally set for an appeal by environmental groups NC WARN and The Climate Times. The commission says the bond is needed to pay Duke Energy's costs if the project is delayed.

Federal energy regulators have rejected Duke Energy's appeal for a longer license to operate dams and reservoirs along the Catawba River. This week's decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, keeps the license term at 40 years, instead of the 50 years Duke had requested.

Coal ash ponds at Riverbend Steam Station in Mount Holly.
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy has stopped draining coal ash ponds into Mountain Island Lake after recent county tests found elevated levels of arsenic in the water. State environmental regulators say they’re investigating whether Duke violated state law.

N.C. General Assembly

  A bill that would have banned wind farms across much of North Carolina died when the state legislature adjourned last week, but several lawmakers said Thursday they'll reintroduce it next year.  

Coal ash belmont
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation


 North Carolina lawmakers have sent Governor Pat McCrory a bill that would relax the state's coal ash cleanup law. It passed the House, 82-32, Thursday night and immediately drew criticism from environmentalists.

Coal ash ponds at Riverbend Steam Station in Mount Holly.
David Boraks / WFAE

Updated 9:11 p.m.
Lawmakers have reached a compromise with Gov. Pat McCrory on how to revise state law requiring cleanups at Duke Energy's North Carolina coal ash sites.  The new bill could let Duke leave ash where it is at some plants, instead of removing it.

David Boraks / WFAE

North Carolina was once a top wine producer - until Prohibition killed the industry. But it's growing again. The North Carolina Wine & Grape Council says the state now has 186 wineries and adds about a dozen new ones a year. Dover Vineyards in Concord is one of those startups.

The North Carolina Senate approved a bill Monday that would ban wind farms across much of the state. The "Military Operations Protection Act," which passed 33-14, would not allow wind turbines in areas with military training flights.

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

Time may be running out for North Carolina lawmakers to reach a compromise on how to update the state's coal ash cleanup law. That's according to the chief sponsor of a bill that Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed last week.

Duke Energy

State regulators will hold a hearing June 17 to help determine whether environmentalists should have to pay a multimillion dollar appeal bond before they challenge approval of a Duke Energy power plant in Asheville. 

 Gov. Pat McCrory has followed through on his threat to veto a bill revising the state's coal ash cleanup law. In a statement Monday night, McCrory said the bill's attempt to revive the Coal Ash Management Commission was unconstitutional. He also said the bill weakens environmental protections.

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