Duncan McFadyen / WFAE

The southeast United States faces a host of threats from climate change. Intensifying temperatures and extreme weather could affect anything from dam safety to airport tarmacs to the range of diseases that can thrive. The most recent National Climate Assessment points to three areas most threatened: coastal communities, the agriculture industry, and water availability. In the second of a three part series, WFAE looks at how the state is, or isn’t, preparing to adapt.

Ben Bradford / WFAE

North Carolina has a complicated relationship with climate change. The state was one of the first to consider its impacts and possible responses, but today—as reports like the National Climate Assessment issue ever more dire warnings—few policies are in place to adapt. In the first of a three part series, WFAE explores the shift.

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.

Duke Energy

Two weeks ago, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory released a plan, billed as a solution for the coal ash ponds leaking polluted water into rivers and lakes around North Carolina. But environmental groups are crying foul—because the governor’s proposal resembles a previous, widely-criticized agreement between the administration and Duke Energy, which was thrown out after a coal ash pond collapsed into the Dan River in February.

Duke Energy

State regulators and Duke Energy officials poured cold water on proposals by environmental groups about what to do with more than 100 millions of tons of coal ash, describing total removal of the ash as lengthy and costly.

Mark Rumsey / WFAE

Two big developments occurred Wednesday in an ongoing fight over how North Carolina utilities store the leftover byproduct of coal. Governor Pat McCrory released a plan of action to stop the current storage in unlined ponds from leaking into state waterways. Then, a judge decreed clean-up efforts to stop those leaks must begin immediately, even as Duke Energy and a state committee appeal.

Ben Bradford / WFAE

The failure of a Duke Energy coal ash pond two months ago not only spilled at least 30,000 tons of the waste into the Dan River, it spurred new scrutiny of how Duke handles the waste, what chemicals are flowing into North Carolina waters, and how the state oversees all of it. It has led to numerous revelations about leaks or cracks in other ponds, wastewater pumped into rivers, lawsuits, and federal investigations. WFAE’s Ben Bradford joined Morning Edition host Kevin Kniestedt to discuss the latest.

Appalachian Voices

Duke Energy is denying accusations by regulators that it allows contaminated storm water to run unauthorized from its coal plants. It’s the first major pushback from Duke against state regulators after the Dan River spill—but not the last, the company says.

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.