Energy & Environment

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

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About 50 people from a dozen groups protested outside Duke's annual meeting in May 2016.
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy is getting rid of in-person annual shareholder meetings. This year's meeting will be online only. Duke says it will save shareholders money and travel and reach more people. But Duke's critics don't like the idea.

Duke Energy is removing coal ash from basins near the retired Riverbend Plant, near Mountain Island Lake.
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy this summer will ask North Carolina regulators to raise the rates consumers pay on their electricity bills for the first time in four years. The rate hikes – at Duke’s two electricity subsidiaries in the state - would help pay for new plants, Hurricane Matthew recovery costs and coal ash cleanups.

A loss on the sale of its international operations contributed to an overall loss of $227 million at Duke Energy for the last three months of 2016. Duke on Thursday also reported that its profit for all of 2016 was down about 24 percent, to $2.1 billion.

But after adjusting for one-time expenses, the report was in line with analysts' expectations. Duke’s shares closed the day up 2.7 percent. 

Duke Energy is removing coal ash from basins near the retired Riverbend Plant, near Mountain Island Lake.
David Boraks / WFAE

A new Duke University study has found high levels of selenium in fish at two lakes near Duke Energy coal-ash sites in North Carolina. But Duke Energy says its own studies have found no problems with fish from the lakes.

Workers cut down trees and shrubs then installed a plastic liner, soil and a fiber mat cover on this slope near the former Carolina Asbestos plant in Davidson. Last fall, environmental officials found asbestos running off from the hill.
David Boraks / WFAE

Contractors have finished installing a plastic liner, fresh earth and a fiber mat over an asbestos site at the Metrolina Warehouse near downtown Davidson. Last fall, runoff was discovered flowing from a slope behind the old mill, at 301 Depot St.  in Davidson.

Green "filter socks" are designed to control runoff behind the old Carolina Asbestos plant in Davidson.  The trees will be removed and the hill full of asbestos covered starting next week.
David Boraks / WFAE

Updated Friday, Jan. 27, 2017
Despite the Trump administration's freeze on new Environmental Protection Agency contracts, a federal cleanup of asbestos found at homes in Davidson remains on track. In addition, state officials say work will start next week to cap asbestos that spilled near an old factory in the neighborhood. 

Marcelle and Deborah Graham live near Duke Energy's Buck plant in Salisbury. They think the company's offer of coal ash compensation isn't enough.
David Boraks / WFAE

State law requires Duke Energy to provide public water line connections or water filtration systems to about a thousand households near its North Carolina coal ash dumps by late 2018. Last week, the company offered a cash bonus, too - but only if homeowners give up the right to sue. Some don't like the offer. 

The Metrolina Warehouse in Davidson was an asbestos factory from 1930 to 1960.
David Boraks / WFAE

A plan to redevelop an old mill in downtown Davidson has led to the discovery - or re-discovery - of disease-causing asbestos on the site and around the neighborhood. As officials figure out how to clean it up, historical fears and concerns have surfaced as well.

Updated 6:11 p.m.
State environmental officials have given preliminary approval to Duke Energy's plans for providing alternate water supplies to neighbors of coal ash dumps around the state.  Meanwhile, the company says it will offer one-time $5,000 payments, water bill stipends and other assistance to homeowners near coal sites.  

The leaking pipe
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation

Duke Energy says it has sealed a broken pipe found leaking from a coal ash dump at the Allen electric plant in Gaston County. The utility and an environmental group are disagreeing about the severity of the leak.

Coal ash pond at Duke Energy's H.F. Lee plant in Wayne County will be drained and excavated, and the coal ash recycled in concrete products.
Duke Energy

Duke Energy has picked a site in eastern North Carolina's Wayne County for the second of three planned coal ash recycling facilities.  The company says it will excavate about 6 million tons of coal ash stored near the H.F. Lee plant in Goldsboro and recycle it for concrete products.

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

Duke Energy has given state environmental officials details of how it plans to provide safe, permanent water supplies to people who live near the company's coal ash dumps.  The filings, for all but two plants, comply with a state law requiring the plans by Dec. 15.

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.

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