Energy & Environment

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

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Public comments are due Sept. 9 on the draft plan.
N.C. Department of Environmental Quality

State environmental officials have released the draft of a proposed North Carolina Clean Energy Plan, a requirement of Governor Roy Cooper's executive order on climate change last year. 

Hurricane Florence
David Boraks / WFAE

It's hurricane season and government forecasters last week said they're now expecting above-normal activity, with five to nine Atlantic hurricanes, including two to four major storms with winds over 110 miles an hour. A conference at Duke University Wednesday looked at North Carolina's ongoing recovery from past hurricanes and what needs to happen to make the state more resilient in the face of stronger and slower moving storms. 

An electric vehicle at a charging station.
David Boraks / WFAE

One day in the not-too-distant future, drivers of electric cars could pick charging stations the same way owners of gas guzzlers choose pumps now - by price. New rules being adopted around the country, including North Carolina, are clearing the way.

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good said the company needs a mix of energy sources - from coal and oil to nuclear and renewables.
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy's second-quarter profit rose 64% from a year ago, as higher rates and other fees boosted revenues and hot weather drove energy use.

Charlotte Area Transit System plans to convert its mostly diesel bus fleet to compressed natural gas beginning in two years.
David Boraks / WFAE

Cities around the nation are phasing out heavily-polluting diesel buses. In many places, they're replacing them with zero-emissions electric buses.  But Charlotte Area Transportation System plans to stick with fossil fuels for now, and convert its 300-bus fleet to compressed natural gas. If the plan goes through, Charlotte won't meet the City Council's goal of eliminating carbon emissions by 2030.

Map shows the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Dominion Energy says it still expects to open the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in 2021, despite court rulings and ongoing appeals that have delayed key environmental permits and halted construction. 

City Council member Dimple Ajmera joined others Tuesday calling for the Trump Administration to cancel a planned rollback of vehicle emissions rules.
David Boraks / WFAE

Charlotte environmental activists and public officials on Tuesday called on the Trump administration to cancel its planned rollback of U.S. clean car standards. Those standards, adopted in 2012 under the Obama administration, have led automakers to improve fuel efficiency and lower emissions.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Updated 4:19 p.m.
A federal appeals court on Friday tossed out another key permit for the $7.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline that deals with the project's effects on threatened or endangered species. It's another legal setback for the 600-mile project, but the pipeline's builders say they hope to be able to "clear up errors" with the permit, and resume construction.  

Control Center operators have a desk with eight screens showing information about power outages and line crews dispatched for repairs.
DAVID BORAKS / WFAE

The Carolinas have not been hit by a hurricane so far this year, but researchers at N.C. State University are predicting a normal year with five to seven big storms in the Atlantic.

Duke Energy Sued For 2014 Coal Ash Spill Environmental Harm

Jul 18, 2019
BEN BRADFORD / WFAE

RALEIGH -- The federal, North Carolina and Virginia governments want a judge to declare the country's largest electricity company liable for environmental damage from a leak five years ago that left miles of a river shared by the two states coated in hazardous coal ash.

Map shows areas that would have high numbers of dangerously hot days late in this century (red), without global action to fight climate change.
Union of Concerned Scientists

Rising temperatures from global warming will more than double the number of dangerously hot days across the United States by 2050 unless the country does more to fight the problem. That's according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, which says the Southeast could see the biggest effects of rising temperatures.

Charlotte Sustainability Director Rob Phocas (left) was on stage with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles in December for an announcement of Bloomberg's $2.5 million climate change donation. Phocas is leaving his job.
David Boraks / WFAE

Several top-level city staffers who oversee environmental policy in Charlotte are departing this month, at a time when City Hall is trying to focus on environmental issues.

National forecasters say high tide flooding hit record levels in some parts of North Carolina and expect it to be more common over the next 30 years. 

Public hearings are planned Tuesday night in High Point and Wednesday night in Charlotte on Piedmont Natural Gas's first rate hike request in six years.

Fuel cell energy generators outside a warehouse. They use an electro-chemical reaction to generate electricity.
Bloom Energy

Duke Energy is adding power-generating fuel cells to the list of services it provides businesses and institutions.  On Monday, the company's non-regulated subsidiary Duke Energy One announced a $250 million deal with California-based Bloom Energy to install fuel cells at more than 30 businesses in four states: California, Connecticut, Maryland and New York.  

Duke Energy building in uptown Charlotte
David Boraks / WFAE

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A Senate measure sought by Duke Energy Corp. that could let utilities bypass lengthy regulatory battles over North Carolina consumer electricity prices by receiving multi-year rate plans and profit ranges has been tweaked in the House.

Duke Energy wants the option approved Wednesday by the House Finance Committee because it says it will reduce legal costs of going before the state Utilities Commission and provide customer predictability.

Environmental groups tracked logs that were cut from North Carolina forests to Enviva's plants.
Dogwood Alliance

A big producer of wood pellets has agreed to install pollution controls at two pellet plants, in Richmond and Sampson counties.

Sutton Lake
Duke Energy

A toxic stew of coal ash has spilled repeatedly and apparently unnoticed from storage pits at a Wilmington power plant into an adjoining lake, according to a Duke University scientist who said Monday that flooding last September from Hurricane Florence was only the latest example.

Mattresses pile up at the North Mecklenburg Recycling Center in Huntersville.
David Boraks / WFAE

Memorial Day weekend means remembering America's war dead, cookouts, and a big push to sell you a new mattress. That means thousands of old mattresses are being retired throughout the country – to the landfill. It’s a growing problem in Mecklenburg County.

Duke Energy tested a solar-and-battery microgrid at this site in south Charlotte.
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy will begin construction soon on one of its first large-scale electricity microgrids in the North Carolina mountains. The project will use solar panels and battery storage to supply backup power to about 500 residents in the remote mountain town of Hot Springs, on the Tennessee border.

Contractors for Piedmont Lithium drill for core samples in a farm field in northern Gaston County.
David Boraks / WFAE

Piedmont North Carolina's gold-mining history is well known. Not so well known is that mines west of Charlotte once produced most of the world's supply of another important element - lithium. Those mines in Gaston County shut down nearly three decades ago. But a company called Piedmont Lithium wants to open a new surface mine next year to supply lithium for batteries to power electric vehicles.

Illustration shows how pulses from a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse attack would affect equipment on earth.
Electric Power Research Institute

Updated 8:58 a.m.

A new utility industry study out Tuesday says an electromagnetic pulse triggered by a high-altitude nuclear explosion would threaten the nation's electric grid, but might not bring the kind of widespread and prolonged power outages sometimes predicted.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a decision made by regulators last year to let Duke Energy charge ratepayers for coal ash cleanups.

dan river coal ash cleanup
David Boraks / WFAE

Updated 4:53 p.m.
Duke Energy filed appeals Friday of state environmental regulators' April orders to remove coal ash at six North Carolina plants that don't already have approved cleanup plans.

tap water
Steve Johnson / Flickr

When you turn on the faucet, you expect that water to be safe. But that’s not necessarily the case for many South Carolina residents who depend on small utilities for their water.

Mary Ellis Stevens was striking for climate action Friday with from left, Julia Duffy and Alyssa Smith of Myers Park High School, Julia Caussil of Hopewell
David Boraks / WFAE

For the past seven Fridays, 14-year-old Mary Ellis Stevens of Charlotte has skipped classes at Trinity Episcopal School and staged what she calls a School Strike for Climate outside Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center. It's not about getting a day off - she's following the lead of other young activists trying to build a global youth movement to fight climate change.

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 a.m.
Duke Energy says it will file an appeal soon of state regulators' orders last week that it must excavate coal ash from six coal-fired power plants in North Carolina that don't already have approved closure plans.   

A mountain of coal ash has been reduced to the original ground level near Riverbend.
David Boraks / WFAE

Updated: 6:49 p.m.
The state Department of Environmental Quality has ordered Duke Energy to excavate coal ash from six remaining coal-fired power plants in North Carolina that don't already have closure plans. 

An electric vehicle at a charging station.
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy is proposing a $76 million program to add more than 2,500 public and private electric vehicle charging stations statewide and to promote the use of electric vehicles.

The proposed bill would ban wind farms in red areas of this Department of Commerce map, deemed "significant risk." Yellow "moderate" risk areas aren't affected.
N.C. Department of Commerce

An 18-month moratorium on new wind energy farms in North Carolina ended Dec. 31. But a bill introduced in the state Senate Wednesday would ban new projects in all or part of two dozen eastern North Carolina counties. Renewable energy advocates say the bill would hurt economic development. 

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