Environment

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Are wood pellets a renewable energy? In 2009, the European Union declared wood pellets a “carbon-neutral choice,” and in 2018 the EPA followed suit. Yet pellets are less efficient than fossil fuels. To make the same amount of energy, wood pellets release more carbon than both coal and natural gas.

wild horses along Outer Banks
Thomas Wheeler / AltAdjust.com

  A group that manages herds of wild horses in coastal North Carolina is warning drivers to watch out for the animals taking advantage of unseasonably warm weather by sleeping on the sand at night.

A 2019 Department of Defense report concluded that the effects of a changing climate, including wildfires, threaten dozens of military bases.

Workers with a large tractor dig coal ash out from pit.
NC DEQ / Flickr

Duke Energy is expected to execute the country’s largest coal ash cleanup in the next couple decades. A settlement signed Dec. 31, 2019 between Duke Energy and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality decided the utility will excavate nearly 80 million tons of coal ash from unlined ponds and move it to lined landfills.

Marshall Steam Station
Duke Energy

The state of North Carolina says it has secured an agreement with Duke Energy to excavate nearly 80 million tons of coal ash at six facilities.

A large pipe on construction grounds.
Lyndsey Gilpin

Construction of the planned 600-mile underground pipeline is already behind schedule. Protests and bureaucratic hurdles plague the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is planned to carry natural gas from West Virginia, to Southeast Virginia before turning south into the North Carolina counties of Northampton, Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson, Cumberland and Robeson, where it ends.

A map showing changes in state environmental agency funding comparing fiscal 2008 to 2018.
Courtesy of Environmental Integrity Project

A new report finds the North Carolina General Assembly cut funding for the state Department of Environmental Quality by approximately 34 percent over a decade. Only three other states in the country cut more funding for environmental regulators in the past decade.

Picture of a flooded street in Swansboro, N.C.
Tom Copeland / AP Photo

Historic cities and towns along the Southeastern U.S. coast have survived wars, hurricanes, disease outbreaks and other calamities, but now that sea levels are creeping up with no sign of stopping, they face a more existential crisis.

an offshore drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico
Creative Commons / Flickr https://flic.kr/p/mU1Qdz

  

 

  A North Carolina environmental group has released a report detailing the potential risks of the Trump administration’s plans to open the nation’s coastlines to more oil and gas drilling. Environment North Carolina cites the dangers from spills during drilling, and also from pollution from the presence of additional infrastructure like ships, ports and pipelines.

Researcher release six young loggerhead turtles in the Atlantic Ocean.
Jay Price / WUNC

As scientists loaded up a dive boat on the Morehead City waterfront recently for a trip offshore to study artificial reefs, six plastic storage bins came aboard for an unrelated mission.

A scientist popped the lid off one to reveal a sea turtle not quite as large as a dinner plate, looking up with gentle, other-worldly eyes.

Each cooler contained a young loggerhead a bit more than a year old. Three had come from the state aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and the others were from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach.

Two years ago, Wake County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to help fund a $2 billion transit improvement plan. While the large-scale projects are still in planning phases, riders have noticed smaller improvements.

A few weeks back, I found myself being pelted with snow, on an unnamed ridge, high above the aptly named Roaring River in central Idaho.

My eyes peeled for elk, I was trudging behind a friend with a rifle in one hand, trying not to trip on the trail-less mountainside.

How did I get here?

drone
Jay Price / WUNC

Shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina have long drawn divers and even treasure hunters. Now, species of tropical and subtropical fish are showing up, driven there by the impacts of climate change.

The state of recycling in North Carolina has declined.
Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

North Carolina is failing to make progress in its recycling efforts. That's one finding from a new study released by Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center, a nonprofit.

Chuck Burton / AP

North Carolina carries a little-understood risk of flooding as climate change makes rainstorms more intense — the state has the country's second-largest collection of dams in poor or unsatisfactory condition built in places where a failure could kill people.

 Photo of Greensboro downtown skyline.
Courtesy Flickr/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/ucumari/306972641

Greensboro city officials are looking into high levels of a likely-carcinogenic chemical compound identified at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The levels of 1,4 dioxane in the wastewater were more than 2,700 times the EPA limit for drinking water.

Recent storms have helped unusually large seashells wash ashore, including a large lightning whelk shell found along the Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Courtesy of Cape Lookout National Seashore

Unusually large seashells have washed ashore at Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Volunteers at the visitors center found lightning whelks and knobbed whelks as large as 12-inches long over the weekend, according to park officials. Some are stained with color gradations that suggest they were buried deep in sediment underwater.

Reporter's Notebook: Spider Season Doesn't Have To Be Scary

Oct 29, 2019
The Orb Weaver Spider sits in its web at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham.
Adhiti Bandlamudi / WUNC

It's the time of year when spiders are out in full force. They've spun webs and maybe even crept into some corners of your house.

Fayetteville Public Works Commission

The Fayetteville Public Works Commission has rolled out the first community solar project in North Carolina. 

The utility built a 1 MW solar farm that sends power to its grid. Customers pay an enrollment charge and a monthly fee, and then get credit on their bills for the power those panels produce.

Sign that reads 'Stop RDU Quarry.'
Jason DeBruyn / WUNC

A court decision on whether to build a contentious rock quarry in Wake County is expected within a week. The planned site for the quarry is a strip of forested land nestled alongside Umstead Park in Raleigh.

Someone holding up a water sample in front of a computer screen.
Courtesy of Detlef Knappe

Clean drinking water is a human right according to a 2010 United Nations declaration. But recent incidents throughout North Carolina raise questions about whether or not our state is protecting that right for North Carolina residents.

A red wolf
Joan Lopez via Flickr/Creative Commons

The Southern Environmental Law Center is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over public records related to conservation efforts for red wolves in eastern North Carolina.

Cape Fear River at Raven Rock State Park NC
Keith Weston / WUNC

The city of Greensboro says a contractor is responsible for dumping a potentially carcinogenic chemical into the water supply in the Cape Fear River Basin. 

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

Duke Energy is asking a state court to intervene in a dispute with environmental regulators over whether the company should excavate coal ash pits at six power plants. 

Sign on a tree that reads 'Ocracoke is greater then Dorian, we got this!'
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

A month after many North Carolinians witnessed little to no damage from Hurricane Dorian, one of North Carolina’s barrier islands is still desperate for help.

A boarded up window with pain that reads 'At least it's not snowing...'
Jason DeBruyn / WUNC

Politicians worldwide felt the heat on climate policy this week after a reported four million protesters took to the streets. The leader of the Global Climate Strike, Greta Thunberg, told world leaders that they had “stolen her dreams.”

Pittsboro courthouse
1nativeTexan / flickr

Researchers from Duke and N.C. State this week briefed Pittsboro officials on the presence of unregulated chemicals in the town's water supply.

Cameras outside the International Space Station captured a stark and sobering view of Hurricane Florence the morning of Sept. 12 as it churned across the Atlantic in a west-northwesterly direction with winds of 130 miles an hour.
Courtesy of NASA

Coastal flooding from hurricanes and other tropical storms is getting worse, according to a recent study by researchers at the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. Scientists looked at more than 120 years of data on tropical cyclones and rainfall in North Carolina. They found six of the wettest events occurred in the last 20 years. Hans Paerl, the study's lead author, says statistical analysis shows that’s more than just a string of bad luck.

Duke Energy says it wants to cut its carbon emissions from electricity generation in half by 2030 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A water fountain inside a hallway at a school at Chapel Hill Carrboro Public Schools.
Brian Batista / For WUNC

Even low levels of lead can cause harm to children, but 22 states, including North Carolina, don’t require schools and day cares to test the levels of lead in children’s drinking water.

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