EPA

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

The EPA wants to relax rules that govern how companies like Duke Energy can dispose of coal ash, but the proposal has some environmental groups in North Carolina concerned about how the changes might affect community health and citizens' ability to take legal action in the future.

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.

A controversial former environmental official from Alabama is President Trump's pick to oversee the EPA in the Southeast.  Trey Glenn was named administrator for EPA Region 4, which includes the Carolinas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama.

President Donald Trump has issued a lot of orders in his first week, and he's already putting his mark on the office. It's mostly big-picture policy statements. But some orders are creating confusion for government employees and citizens, especially when it comes to science and the environment.

dan river coal ash cleanup
David Boraks / WFAE

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says coal ash ponds and landfills disproportionately affect poor and minority communities across the U.S. But that’s not what North Carolina officials found when they conducted their own “environmental justice reviews” of two sites this year.

State environmental officials are suing the federal EPA again, this time over North Carolina’s possible inclusion on a list of states that contribute to air quality problems in the Northeast.

Gov. Pat McCrory
NC.gov

North Carolina is continuing to fight new EPA rules that limit carbon emissions from power plants. Gov. Pat McCrory's office said Wednesday night the state has joined 27 other states in asking the US Supreme Court to delay the Clean Power Plan, while the states challenge the rules in court.

NC Senate Votes To Oppose EPA Carbon Plan

Aug 5, 2015
Ben Bradford / WFAE

The North Carolina Senate does not like the Obama administration’s sweeping new rule to limit carbon emissions from power plants. The Senate voted Wednesday to restrict state compliance with the law and to sue the administration.   

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, along with many Republican governors, opposes the carbon rule taking effect and has said he plans a lawsuit. The Senate bill requires one.

In the meantime, it orders state environment officials not to take the first step of the rule, developing a plan for cutting carbon emissions by about a third.

McCrory Will Sue EPA Over Carbon Rule

Aug 4, 2015
Governor's office

Republican administrations across the country have opposed the Obama administration’s plan to regulate carbon emissions since it was first announced, and North Carolina is no exception. 


Charlotte Reaches EPA Ozone Standard, For Now

Jul 29, 2015
2014 Mecklenburg County State of the Environment Report

Charlotte’s air quality no longer violates federal standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says ozone readings now meet levels consistent with its 2008 rule. However, the improved rating may not last long.


Federal Judge Rejects State Lawsuit Against EPA

Jul 9, 2015

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources against its federal counterpart.

In December 2013, the state challenged new, tighter limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for air pollution the size of smoke particles or smaller. Cars, refineries, factories, and power plants—especially coal plants—emit this particulate matter.

NCDENR

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling against federal efforts to limit mercury and other toxic emissions at coal plants won’t have much direct effect in North Carolina, but the state’s environment secretary argues it should impact the thinking on another, upcoming federal rule to limit carbon emissions.

Duke Energy

The Sierra Club has accused Duke Energy of allowing unsafe levels of sulfur into the air in Asheville. A study by the group shows Duke's Asheville coal plant exceeds federal limits. Duke says it's complying with all standards. Both could be right, because of a dispute between states and the federal government.


Duke Energy

Opposition is already shaping up to the Environmental Protection Agency rule that, if enacted, would be the first to limit how much carbon the nation’s existing power plants can emit into the air. At the Making Energy Work conference in Uptown Charlotte on Thursday, North Carolina utilities gave an early glimpse of the grounds on which they oppose the rule.

“We’re not sure that it can be implemented as written,” Duke Energy senior vice president Dwight Jacobs said during a panel discussion at the event.

NC Wants Delay On Federal Climate Change Plan

Aug 1, 2014
Ben Bradford / WFAE

North Carolina’s environment agency is objecting to a proposed federal rule that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s power plants. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently hearing public comments on the proposed rule, the Obama administration’s largest effort directed toward climate change.


Appalachian Voices

Duke Energy announced it has finished actively cleaning coal ash from the Dan River, a little less than six months after a massive spill turned the water gray. The bulk of the ash will remain in the river.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 tons of ash, containing heavy metals including arsenic and lead, spilled into the river in February. It flowed down the Dan River, collecting in pockets on its banks and bottom.

Duke has dredged three main areas—next to the spill site, from the water treatment plants of cities downriver, and, the largest, near a dam outside the city of Danville.

North Carolina will have to reduce its rate of carbon emissions from power plants 40 percent to comply with a rule the Environmental Protection Agency proposed Monday. That's among the larger reductions the EPA is calling for in its push to reduce emissions.

Dan River Update: A Fraction Of Ash Removed

May 22, 2014
Appalachian Voices

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it has struck an agreement with Duke Energy to clean up coal ash from the Dan River. The EPA has been overseeing the company’s response, since a storage pond failed at a Duke coal plant in February, spilling at least 30,000 tons of the waste into the river. But the agreement binds Duke to clean up ash as the EPA directs and to reimburse the agency for its costs. EPA officials say that comes to about $800,000 for the past three-plus months of clean-up.


Little Ash Removed From Dan River

Feb 25, 2014
Appalachian Voices

Two weeks since Duke Energy crews plugged a broken stormwater pipe, stopping a leak of coal ash into the Dan River, little progress has been made on removing that ash from the river.

Ben Bradford / WFAE

A revised estimate shows less coal ash than previously thought leaked into the Dan River during a spill last week. Duke Energy now says less than 40,000 tons spilled into the river.

When that stormwater pipe burst ten days ago under a Duke Energy ash pond, the company estimated up to 82,000 tons of ash had spilled into the river, or about 8 percent of the entire pond. Water and ash continued to leak throughout the week as crews worked to plug the pipe. Regulators and Duke promised an updated number once the leak was sealed, which occurred early Saturday morning.

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