Energy & Environment

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

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Duke Energy

Duke Energy has asked a federal appeals court in Washington, DC, to review its request for a longer license to manage about 300 miles of the Catawba River in North and South Carolina.

Duke Energy's G.G. Allen Steam Station on Lake Wylie in Gaston County
Aaron Hartley / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Some well owners near coal plants say the resignation of North Carolina’s epidemiologist confirms what they’ve been saying for months: their water is not safe to drink.

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.   

Profits at Duke Energy were lower in the second quarter compared with a year ago, mainly because of a write-down as it prepares to sell its international business. But executives say Duke's main U.S. operations are strong.

Drawing shows design for the W.S. Lee Nuclear Plant in Cherokee County, S.C.
Westinghouse Electric Co./Duke Energy

Duke Energy is another step closer to winning approval to build a new nuclear power plant in South Carolina. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday it has completed the final safety evaluation for the proposed William States Lee plant in Cherokee, near Gaffney.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

 A beetle known as the Emerald Ash Borer has killed hundreds of ash trees at two land preserves in Lincoln County. The beetles have been in North Carolina since 2013 and are spreading across the state. 

Illustration of Duke Energy's $1 billion project, which calls for two new gas-fired units in Asheville. The current coal-fired plant will be retired by 2020.
Duke Energy

 Updated 4:55 p.m.
Regulators have dismissed an appeal by two environmental groups that wanted to halt a Duke Energy power plant project in Asheville. The N.C. Utilities Commission says NC WARN and The Climate Times failed to post a $98 million bond required for the appeal.

But the battle may not be over. The environmental groups say they'll take the issue to the state Court of Appeals.  

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.  

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