Energy & Environment

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

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Piedmont Natural Gas rates are ticking down slightly, thanks to strong sales in recent months, according to a filing Friday with state regulators. 

Duke CEO Lynn Good
Duke Energy

Duke Energy said its top executive's compensation has more than doubled over the past two years. 

Atlantic Coast Pipeline

RICHMOND, Va. — Civic leaders in town after town along the 600-mile (966-kilometer) route of a proposed natural gas project have posed for similar photographs, smiling and accepting poster-sized checks from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

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

New data from federally mandated testing has found elevated levels of radiation in groundwater at 11 of 18 Duke Energy coal plants. Environmentalists and Duke disagree over what the numbers mean.

Duke Energy headquarters in Charlotte
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy and the state utility customer advocate have reached a partial settlement that would trim the size of the company's pending rate hike request for western North Carolina, including Charlotte.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission will begin hearings on a rate hike request for one subsidiary of Duke Energy after recently approving a 6 percent increase for another.

The federal government's only scheduled public meeting in North Carolina today to discuss expanding oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast and in other waters is expected to attract busloads of people opposing the idea.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Duke Energy says the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is on track to open in late 2019, even though it's still awaiting final state and federal approvals. But CEO Lynn Good said delays and more stringent conditions from regulators have pushed the project's price tag up - to between $6 billion and $6.5 billion.

Valdese has bought 302 acres along Lake Rhodhiss for a new park.
Foothills Conservancy

The town of Valdese in Burke County has acquired 302 acres along Lake Rhodhiss and McGalliard Creek for a new public park. The $1.3 million purchase was funded by private donations and a grant from the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund. It came came after 2½ years of planning and fundraising by the Foothills Conservancy.

A grappler tears into bricks and metal at Duke Energy's retired Riverbend Steam Station in Mount Holly.
David Boraks / WFAE

A big transformation is happening at Duke Energy's retired Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake northwest of Charlotte. The 1920s powerhouse is being demolished, wall-by-wall. And trains are hauling away coal ash that had been dumped behind the plant for about 90 years. 

Duke Energy headquarters in Charlotte
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy says it will pass along to customers some of the savings from new federal tax cuts that took effect Jan. 1.  In filings with utilities regulators in the Carolinas, Florida and Kentucky, the company says federal tax windfalls will go to reducing bills and offsetting future rate increases.

Opponents of Duke Energy's rate hike waved green paper to show support for a speaker at Tuesday's hearing in Charlotte.
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy's request to raise electricity rates by 13.6 percent in western North Carolina got a chilly response from customers at a public hearing Tuesday night in Charlotte. Some worry about the monthly bill increases, while others say the company needs to share the blame and cost of what they see as past mistakes.

Duke Energy has settled a class-action lawsuit filed by homeowners who live near the company’s coal ash sites, and the suit has been dismissed. 

A deep freeze in January, which included a mid-month snow storm, pushed electricity use in North Carolina to record highs, says Duke Energy.
David Boraks / WFAE

Thanks to unusually low temperatures, January is turning out to be a record month for electricity use in North Carolina.  It also could mean higher bills for customers, according to Duke Energy. 

Map shows the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's proposed route through eastern North Carolina. It will orginate in West Virginia and run through Virginia as well.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Updated 6:35 p.m.
North Carolina environmental regulators have issued a key water permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. It's one of the last permits needed before construction begins in the state.

Deborah Graham of Salisbury waits her turn to address the NC Utilities Commisssion. She lived near a Duke Energy storage pit and opposes the company's rate hike request to pay for coal ash cleanup.
Keri Brownn / WFDD

State regulators got an earful from residents who say they don’t want to pay for costs associated with coal ash cleanup across the state. The North Carolina Utilities Commission held a public hearing in Greensboro Wednesday night at the Guilford County Courthouse. The agency is considering a 16.7 percent rate hike request from Duke Energy. That’s around $18 more a month.

Rebates would help pay for solar panels on a rooftop
Elliot Brown / Flickr

Duke Energy has proposed a new solar rebate program for homeowners and small businesses in North Carolina - something required as part of the state's new renewable energy law that took effect Jan. 1. 

Coal ash is being excavated from Duke Energy's closed Riverbend coal plant on Mountain Island Lake.
David Boraks / WFAE

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is opposing Duke Energy's request to charge ratepayers for the costs of cleaning up its coal ash dumps around the state.  

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.

Santee Cooper and SCE&G had been adding two reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in Fairfield County.
Santee Cooper

Updated 2:03 p.m.
Virginia's Dominion Energy said Wednesday it will buy embattled South Carolina electric utility SCANA for about $7.9 billion in stock. Dominion also will assume SCANA's debt, making the deal worth a total of $14.6 billion. Dominion also is offering to cut rates for customers of SCANA's South Carolina Electric & Gas subsidiary, and absorb other costs of a failed nuclear project north of Columbia. 

Reactors 3 and 4 under construction at Plant Vogtle near Augusta, Ga., in November 2017.
Georgia Power

By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr.
Associated Press 

ATLANTA — Georgia's utility regulators are allowing construction to continue on two new nuclear reactors, despite massive cost overruns for the multi-billion-dollar project.

Thursday's unanimous decision by the state's Public Service Commission will shape the future of the nation's nuclear industry, partly because the reactors at Plant Vogtle were the first new ones to be licensed and to begin construction in the U.S. since 1978.

Park rangers would get new radios in the project, which would allow them to communicate directly with nearby public safety agencies - something they can't do now.
National Park Service

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a long list of overdue maintenance projects. Now it's turning to a private partner to help raise money to upgrade the park's outdated radio system. That system lets rangers communicate during routine patrols as well as emergencies, like the wildfires that killed 14 people in east Tennessee a year ago.

dan river coal ash cleanup
David Boraks / WFAE

By EMERY P. DALESIO
AP Business Writer

Charging North Carolina consumers the full, multi-billion-dollar cost of cleaning up coal ash dumps is comparable to tire stores charging customers an extra fee to dispose of an old set of wheels, a Duke Energy Corp. executive said Monday.

Duke Energy and the state's utility consumer advocates have reached a partial agreement on a rate increase for eastern North Carolina that's lower than what the company originally sought. But Duke and the advocates are still haggling over how much consumers should pay for coal ash cleanups at Duke's North Carolina power plants and hurricane recovery costs.

In February 2017, workers used a giant crane to lower a containment vessel ring into place at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in Fairfield County, S.C.
SCANA

Updated 1:50 p.m.
South Carolina Electric & Gas is offering to cut customer rates by 3.5 percent immediately, and more in the future, as part of a proposed settlement related to the cancellation of a failed nuclear project.

Duke Energy

Repair costs after Hurricane Irma cut into Duke Energy's profits in the third quarter.  The cancellation of a Florida nuclear project also contributed.

Coal ash is being excavated from Duke Energy's closed Riverbend coal plant on Mountain Island Lake.
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy has removed about 13 million tons of coal ash at five plants in North Carolina as it complies with federal and state cleanup requirements. But ten times that amount remains in the ground across the state, and not all that will be removed.

Duke Energy

What if a dam holding back coal ash burst at one of Duke Energy's coal plants in the Carolinas or Midwest? Newly released maps from Duke show many properties would be inundated, including some homes and docks. The maps are now public, after environmentalists threatened to sue. 

Sheep from a local farm are grazing to keep grass down beneath the panels at Duke Energy's Monroe solar farm.
David Boraks / WFAE

On a country road south of Monroe in Union County, near a golf course and soybean fields, is a new kind of farm - a solar farm.  This spring, Duke Energy began generating electricity from 684,000 solar panels here, the largest solar farm in the Charlotte region and one of the largest in the state.

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