Environment

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.

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.

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