Environment

Vehicles drive through water from the White Oak River flooding Highway 24 as Hurricane Florence hit Swansboro N.C., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.
Tom Copeland / AP Photo

North Carolina is feeling the effects of Hurricane Florence. The major storm is expected to cause catastrophic flooding and long power outages. Host Frank Stasio talks to WUNC Capitol Bureau Chief Jeff Tiberii and WUNC politics reporter Rusty Jacobs for the latest from the governor and on state response.

A copperhead snake
Jeff Beane

With warmer weather and more outdoor activities comes the increase in snake sightings in North Carolina. There are nearly 40 species of snakes in the state with one of the most common being the copperhead. Despite the fact that there are copperheads in every county in North Carolina, there are still a lot of misconceptions and myths about them says herpetologist Jeff Beane

The Advocacy group Environment North Carolina is leading the charge to ban the use of single-use polystyrene, better known as styrofoam.
romana klee / Flickr, Creative Commons, https://flic.kr/p/r78ZQJ

Environmental activists are calling for a statewide ban on single-use polystyrene, better known as styrofoam. The plastic food and drink containers don’t biodegrade, and often end up in waterways and marine animals.

DEQ

Updated May 18

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality says the town of White Lake's statements about what might have caused a recent fish kill are misleading the public.

Photo of Michael Scott at microphone
Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

Last week state officials held a public forum in Bladen County to share information and address concerns about GenX, the unregulated chemical produced by Chemours that has contaminated drinking water. Many residents said they left with more questions than answers.

Photo of two women holding signs
Anne Meador / Flickr Creative Commons

After months of deliberation, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has granted an important permit for the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The 401 water quality permit will allow developers Dominion Energy and Duke Energy to construct the pipeline along the I-95 corridor as long as they adhere to certain water quality standards. More permits are required for construction to begin, but opponents were hoping the state would withhold the water permit, which could have stopped construction of the pipeline even with its federal approval.

Austin Allen / Duke Nicholas School of the Environment

Duke University researchers have new insight into why marine animals are eating plastic.

Greenbelt view from Germany
Nickel van Duijvenboden / Wikimedia Commons -2017

Today the European Green Belt is a stretch of rich and flourishing land in Western Europe that extends north to south for thousands of miles. However, during the Cold War the strip was a no-man’s land that separated the Soviet Union from non-Soviet countries. 

FILE - In a Tuesday June 6, 2017 file photo, hydrologist William K. Jones, walks up a mountain near the route of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Bolar, Va.
Steve Helber, File / AP

When Dominion Energy applied for approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the publicly-unveiled plan indicated that the natural gas line would end in the middle of a field in Robeson County, North Carolina.
 

National Guard soldiers in Houston in August of 2017
Texas Army National Guard photo / FBI

Floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey still filled the streets in Texas when Hurricane Irma blew ashore in Florida. As the latest storm moves toward North Carolina, Duke scientists explore whether these rare weather events are growing more frequent or more extreme. They also analyze how communities and governments can become more resilient.

Charles Bangley of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center leads his crew on an evening shark fishing trip on Pamlico Sound.
Jay Price / WUNC

Bull sharks and lion fish are among the species becoming more common in North Carolina, while black sea bass and other fish are getting harder to find.

pipeline construction
Public Herald / Flickr - Creative Commons

The federal regulatory body responsible for assessing for the environmental effects of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline recently released their final report. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined the project will incur “some adverse effects” but proper safety and environmental mitigation will reduce the risk “to less-than significant levels.” 

Public Herald / Flickr Creative Commons

  The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would span approximately 600 miles across three states. The pipeline is a joint project between Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, Piedmont Natural  Gas and Southern Company .


Smithfield Foods promised to cut emissions.
humanesociety.org

Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, has promised to slash its carbon emissions.

James MacPherson / AP Photo

Thousands of protesters have spent months at the site of the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline under a lake near Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. The protesters say it threatens the safety of the water and undermines a sacred native site. 

wildfire photo
Stuart Palley for Reveal

Wildfires continue to sweep through the Southeastern United States. More than 28,000 fires have burned approximately 1.5 million acres of land in the region so far this year, according to The National Interagency Fire Center.

Staring Down Fate

Aug 30, 2016
Photo of Chris Lucash
Jeffrey Mittelstadt, WildSides

Chris Lucash spent close to three decades working with the endangered red wolf population in North Carolina. He was present when the first wolves were released back into the wild in the late 1980s and helped support the wild population as it grew to its peak in the 2000s.

In June of 2015, Lucash was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, and he passed away just one year later.

Photo of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Ken Thomas / Wikipedia

For a century the National Park Service has established and preserved parks, seashores and memorials across the country. Sites range from Yellowstone National Park to the César E. Chávez National Monument.

In 2015, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, both partially located in North Carolina, were two of the top three most visited sites in the National Park system.

However, growing concerns about climate change and big maintenance bills threaten preservation efforts.

The old well at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.
Tim Schleicher / flickr, Creative Commons

Legislative leaders are at odds with environmentalists over a new policy initiative at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The state budget sets aside $1 million for scientists to conduct environmental research and make public policy recommendations. But some professors worry about potential ties to the legislature that could pressure them to sway their findings for political gain.

Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC's Dave DeWitt about the new program, which has been dubbed the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory.

Megan Davies
NC DHHS

Some of the state’s environmental watchdogs are quitting their jobs, saying it is impossible to achieve their objectives under Governor McCrory’s administration and the Republican-led legislature.

In a recent editorial, Susan Ladd, columnist with the Greensboro News and Record, asserts that lawmakers have taken many actions to hinder environmental protection.

ECU Scientists Track Spread Of Zombie Crabs

Aug 4, 2016
Cliff Hollis, ECU News Services

North Carolina's mud crabs are falling victim to an invasive parasite that researchers say turns them into walking zombies.

April Blakeslee is an assistant professor of biology at East Carolina University. She said the parasitic barnacle called Loxothylacus panopaei, or simply Loxo, can commandeer the reproductive systems of the crabs and alter their behavior.

photo of a church
Theresa Schenk / Pixabay

Note: This segment originally aired on Thursday, June 2, 2016.

Whether it's reducing carbon emissions or increasing solar energy, environmentalists see a need for people to change the way they treat the earth in the shadow of climate change. Likewise, some religion leaders see their faith as motivation to care better for the environment.

Ken Ilgunas

This program originally aired on April 21, 2016.

Ken Ilgunas was working as a dishwasher near the oil refineries of Alaska when his friend suggested they should hike the entire length of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

He immediately agreed, and a year later he started the journey from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas on foot.

Jedediah Purdy
Travis Drove

  This show originally aired on October 6, 2015.

In an era where humans and the environment are inextricably tied, how do we approach environmental politics, economics and ethics?

In what ways do the historical perspectives on the relationship between humanity and nature shape how policymakers approach current environmental issues like climate change and global warming?

@camtraplive / Twitter

In 1913, National Geographic published the first photographs taken with an automatic camera trap.

Wildlife photographer George Shiras rigged a string to his camera shutter and used bait to coax animals into pulling it, arguably resulting in the first animal selfies ever.

Today, the technology has come a long way, and more scientists are using it to study the behavior and diversity of species all over the world, and it has opened a new frontier in citizen science.

US Embassy Canada / Flickr Creative Commons

North Carolina is one of the leading states in solar energy. 

But the recent elimination of some tax credits and the possibility of solar permitting may slow the growth of solar energy in the state. And the Department of Environmental Quality is considering a change to the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards that could affect renewable energy production in the state. 

Image of bottled water provided by Duke Energy to families affected by the coal ash spill.
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Next month will mark two years since 40,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of contaminated water flowed into Dan River as a result of a Duke Energy spill. The electric utility giant is working to clean up the coal ash at multiple sites across the state.

But legal infighting and regulatory delays have stalled progress at 10 of the 14 sites. Meanwhile some residents are afraid to drink out of their tap.

Image of Ken Dodge, professor of public policy at Duke
Duke University

Note: This is a rebroadcast from last year.

There is a common metaphor in the scientific community that uses flowers to describe children’s sensitivity to their environments. A child like a dandelion will turn out fine despite the circumstances she is raised in, while a child like an orchid will flounder without a nourishing environment, but blossom with care and support. 

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality says Duke Energy will have to excavate most of its coal ash pits in North Carolina.

A new report says 20 pits have to be cleaned up rather than covered, but environmental groups think that number should be higher and point to an earlier draft report that identified 27 pits for excavation. 

Image of wood pellets, which are causing an environmental controversy in North Carolina. Though the energy source is carbon neutral in theory, that's not always true in practice.
Andrew_Writer / Flickr Creative Commons

The wood pellet industry is booming in North Carolina, thanks in part to high demand from Europe. Power plants burn the wood product to create energy, but wood pellet companies are cutting down trees at a higher rate than anticipated, raising questions about whether the practice really is carbon neutral.

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