Coal Ash

Welcome to the 10th edition of WFAE Talks, our weekly podcast in which WFAE News Director Greg Collard and reporters Lisa Miller and Ben Bradford discuss stories in the news and how they're covered. They also delve into general office banter.

This week, they discuss Duke Energy's continuing coal ash problems, an interpretation of state law that says charter schools don't have to reveal how much teachers are paid, and Central Piedmont Community College's decision to pull out of a federal loan program.

Waterkeeper Alliance

While a broken pipe was spilling at least 30,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River, Duke crews were pumping coal ash wastewater into another river—the Cape Fear. Environmental officials accuse Duke of violating its permit and hiding information from regulators. Environmental groups blame the regulators.


Duke Energy says it will remove the coal ash controversially stored on the banks of Mountain Island Lake. That has long been a goal of environmental groups. After that announcement, Duke quickly offered a proposal to the City of Charlotte: use the ash at Charlotte-Douglas airport, as fill for land, for new runways, taxiways, and other projects. That proposal from Duke could be a cheap option for an airport whose calling card is its low cost.

Duke Energy

Duke Energy has announced plans to close many coal ash ponds across the state, including at the Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake, after at least 30,000 tons of the toxic byproduct from burning coal spilled into the Dan River last month. City officials say Duke and another company have proposed that the airport use the ash.

Lawmakers Grilled On Response To Coal Ash Spill

Mar 11, 2014
Jeff Wilhelm / Charlotte Observer

A community meeting on coal ash stored at Mountain Island Lake turned into a grilling Monday of state legislators over their response to Duke Energy’s spill on the Dan River last month.

The group We Love Mountain Island Lake hosted the panel discussion including environmental advocates, Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins, Gaston County Republican Rep. John Torbett and Mecklenburg Democrat Rep. Rodney Moore. About 75 people attended.

But as a line formed to ask questions, most were aimed at the two lawmakers. Their responses grew more pointed as the questions did.

Some May Not Get Power Back Until Wed.

Mar 9, 2014

Thousands of utility workers are in North Carolina this weekend, helping to restore electricity to about 191,000 customers still without power after Friday’s rain, wind and ice. But officials say it could be several more days until some people have their power back.

Duke Energy

A North Carolina judge has ruled that state environmental regulators must immediately stop groundwater contamination from coal ash ponds at all 14 of Duke Energy’s coal-fired power plants. The decision is a victory for environmental groups opposed to how Duke Energy stores the leftover byproduct from burnt coal at its power plants, but it does not resolve what will happen to the ash.

Duke Energy

North Carolina regulators are cracking down on Duke Energy for allowing storm water to flow unauthorized from its coal plants into state rivers and lakes. Regulators have known about the runoff for years, but are taking action amidst allegations they have been too soft on Duke.

Jury Convicts Boone Man In $25M Metals Scam

Mar 2, 2014

A Florida jury has convicted a North Carolina man of operating fraudulent precious metals investment businesses that fleeced investors of 25 million dollars. The jury found 54-year-old Arthur John Schlecht of Boone guilty Thursday of conspiracy and wire fraud charges. He faces a maximum 40-year prison sentence plus fines and restitution. Prosecutors say there were hundreds of victims. Four other defendants pleaded guilty. Schlecht's companies offered people the chance to invest in gold, silver, platinum and palladium bullion that would be stored in vaults for them.

This is episode #7 in our new podcast venture. Greg, Lisa and Ben discuss the North Carolina Supreme Court race and county requests (35) for exemptions to the state's early voting requirements. They also discuss WFAE's election coverage plans and some of the edicts Greg has given staff. Lisa explains what's happening in Raleigh regarding a new pay system for teachers, and Ben gives an update in the coal ash debate.