Environment

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. 

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.

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.   

Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage?

Apr 9, 2019

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Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The company building the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline says it has halted construction after a federal appeals court put on hold a key environmental permit.  

Beehives on the roof of Heirloom Restaurant provide the eatery's "Rooftop Honey."
David Boraks / WFAE

Heirloom Restaurant in northwest Charlotte has beehives on the roof, grows its own herbs and uses energy-efficient lighting. Chef Clark Barlowe, who grew up on a North Carolina farm, buys meat and produce from local farms and composts all of his food waste.

A city worker cuts down a tree on Culloden More Court off South Tryon Street.
David Boraks / WFAE

Charlotte neighborhoods have been a cacophony of chainsaws for weeks — since Hurricane Florence and then Tropical Storm Michael blew down trees and limbs around the city.  

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

Production of wood pellets continues to expand in North Carolina and across the South. Millions of tons are sent every year to be burned in power plants in Europe, where they're considered a form of renewable energy. But after heavy flooding from hurricanes Matthew and Florence, there's also growing debate over just how environmentally friendly they are.

Mike8411251995 / Wikimedia Commons

Harris Teeter will phase out single-use plastic bags by 2025, along with other grocery stores owned by its parent company, The Kroger Co. of Cincinnati.  

Wikimedia Commons

Mooresville-based Lowe's said Tuesday it will phase out sales of paint strippers containing methylene chloride and the solvent NMP by year's end.  The move comes amid a push by environmental groups to outlaw the chemicals, which can be lethal if inhaled.

Air quality in the Carolinas has improved in recent years, thanks to environmental laws.
David Boraks / WFAE

The American Lung Association's annual air quality report is out. It gives good grades overall for air quality in the Carolinas, though some cities saw slight increases in bad air days between 2014 and 2016 - the latest data available.

David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy says it could completely phase out coal-fired power plants by 2050. By then, the utility expects to be generating electricity through a mix of other sources, including nuclear and gas-fired plants, and wind and solar farms.  That possible scenario came in a special Climate Report to Shareholders published Thursday.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

After Democrat Roy Cooper defeated Republican Governor Pat McCrory a year ago, state environmental secretary Donald van der Vaart gave up his office. After all, he was a McCrory appointee. But he didn't leave the agency. Instead he demoted himself and the department's No. 2 official, John Evans, to staff positions. The two men have since spoken out on policy issues, sometimes at odds with state policy. Now the Department of Environmental Quality has put the van der Vaart and Evans on paid  "investigatory leave."  WFAE's David Boraks joins "All Things Considered" host Mark Rumsey to talk about the situation.

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