Environment

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.

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. 

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.

Nick de la Canal / WFAE

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services estimates at least "a couple hundred gallons" of raw sewage spilled Friday into the pond at Park Road Park.  The agency's Rusty Rozzelle says the spill was caused by a sewer line blockage.

dan river coal ash cleanup
David Boraks / WFAE

Dozens of insurance companies say they're not obligated to help pay for Duke Energy Corp.'s multi-billion dollar coal ash cleanup because the nation's largest electric company long knew about but did nothing to reduce the threat of potentially toxic pollutants.

A bicycle commuter on Commonwealth Avenue in Charlotte.
David Boraks / WFAE

Do you drive to and from work in the Charlotte area? Several local groups are promoting a bit of a competition this month called the Clean Commute Challenge. Charlotte Area Transit System, Sustain Charlotte and Charlotte Air Awareness are asking drivers to look for alternatives during the month of June.   

Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed a bill that would limit the amount of damages nearby property owners can collect if a court rules that smells from hog and poultry farms are a nuisance The governor also has signed a Republican-backed bill that rolls back some state regulations on the environment, business and government agencies.  

Duke Energy's annual meeting is Thursday, but don't try to go to uptown Charlotte and vote your shares. This year’s meeting will be at a secret location, beamed to shareholders via telephone and internet. Protesters say they'll be at Duke's headquarters anyway.  

Blue sky over uptown Charlotte
David Boraks / WFAE

An annual report out this week shows air quality in North Carolina and other southeastern states is continuing to improve. Federal and state laws have made the difference, but there's concern lawmakers may try to weaken those rules. 

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