Environment

Seagrass meadows in the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary, like this one, are starting to decline because of changing landscapes.
Courtesy of Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership

North Carolina seagrass in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary decreased by almost 6% between 2006 and 2013, according to a long-anticipated report.

This photo of the red-cockaded woodpecker was taken on July 31, 2019
Greg Lavaty / via Flickr

The red-cockaded woodpecker has been listed as endangered for more than half a century, but that could soon change.

In the final months of the Trump administration, federal wildlife officials started a process to downgrade its status to “threatened.” 

Conservation groups say science doesn’t support the move, and that it could undermine gains made in part with the help of unusual public-private partnerships that have taken decades of work and millions of dollars.

Dionne Delli-Gatti served most recently at EDF as director of Southeast Climate and Energy.
Environmental Defense Fund

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has again picked a veteran leader from the Environmental Defense Fund to become his environment secretary.

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

Duke Energy, North Carolina officials and a conservation group announced Monday an agreement on how the utility pays to get rid of coal ash stored in the state. The proposed settlement would shift an estimated $1.1 billion in expenses away from customers over the next decade to the nation's largest electric utility and its shareholders.

In this Monday, May 13, 2019 file photo, A female red wolf emerges from her den sheltering newborn pups at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, N.C.
Gerry Broome / AP Photo

A judge has ordered the federal government to come up with a plan to release more endangered red wolves from breeding programs to bolster the dwindling wild population.

Payton, a male polar bear, moved into the North Carolina Zoo on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.
North Carolina Zoo

North Carolina has a new resident that weighs more than 1,000 pounds.

His name is Payton. He is a polar bear.

The estimated size of the largest gasoline pipeline spill in North Carolina history keeps growing. Colonial Pipeline now estimates that nearly 1.2 million gallons of gasoline spilled when a pipeline ruptured in a Huntersville nature preserve last August.

That's more than double the previous estimate of 492,339 gallons as of Dec. 31, and far above the initial estimate of just 63,000 gallons last year. Colonial warned the number could go higher, as workers are still recovering 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of gasoline a day.

Lynne Sladky / AP Photo

America’s rivers are changing color — and people are behind many of the shifts, a new study said.

A protest sign against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Francine Stephenson's property in Johnston County.
Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

The developers of the now-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline have laid out plans for how they want to go about unwinding the work that was done for the multistate natural gas project and restoring disturbed land.

Hunter Musi / Stanford University via AP

Four Native American tribes on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast requested United Nations assistance this year to force action by the U.S. government on invading salt. Their formal complaint cited “climate-forced displacement’’ and said saltwater had poisoned their land, their crops and their medicinal plants.

A hog farm in Lyons, Georgia.
Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a 2018 jury verdict that led to awarding monetary damages to neighbors of a North Carolina industrial hog operation for smells and noise they said made living nearby unbearable.

Colonial Pipeline says it still doesn't know how much gasoline spilled when one of its pipes burst at a Huntersville nature preserve in August. And the company still can't say how long it will take to clean up the largest gasoline spill in North Carolina.

It happened Aug. 16 in a wooded area about 2½ miles east of downtown Huntersville called the Oehler Nature Preserve. Colonial initially said about 63,000 gallons of gasoline leaked. But as of last Thursday, nearly 311,000 gallons had been recovered, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ.

A screengrab from the National Weather Service's radar at 11:41 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2020.
NWS

Updated at 12:34 p.m.

A flash flood warning is in effect for all of central North Carolina, including the Triad, the Triangle and east of the Triangle.

Multiple water rescues and flash flooding have been reported across central and western North Carolina.

North Carolina environmental officials say Colonial Pipeline significantly underestimated the amount of gasoline that spilled in Huntersville in August, and they've ordered the company to provide a new number.

The state Department of Environmental Quality says Colonial estimates that it lost 272,580 gallons of fuel in the spill. But as of this week, 267,313 gallons had been recovered, and Colonial's reports show that workers are still recovering 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of gasoline per day in the area.

A bill seeks to protect air space for military exercises by prohibiting wind farms.
Paulo Valdivieso / Flickr Creative Commons

North Carolina has teamed up with Virginia and Maryland for more clout in the emerging offshore wind industry.

Fall color explodes along Hwy 221 in Avery County near the Blues Ridge Parkway Wednesday, Oct 14, 2020.
Chuck Liddy / for WUNC

October is typically one of the busiest months for traffic along the Blue Ridge Parkway and – despite the pandemic and everything else going on – 2020 has been no different.

Vehicles packed with people searching for a fall getaway or with folks looking for colorful leaves have been buzzing along the scenic road this month. There are more than 200 places for drivers to pull off and take pictures.

Carteret County Shore Protection Office

It’s estimated that annual average temperatures in North Carolina will rise between 2 and 5 degrees by the middle of this century, and 2019 was the warmest year on record for the state. This heat has already had a significant impact on farmworkers, who have reported noticing both an increase in temperatures outdoors while working and afterwards, in lodging that does not offer relief from evenings that are trending increasingly warmer. 

File photo of a protest sign in front of Chemours' President of Fluoroproducts Paul Kirsch during a community meeting hosted by the chemical company Chemours at Faith Tabernacle Christian Center in St. Pauls, N.C. on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.
Ben McKeown / WUNC

The state of North Carolina sued on Tuesday to seek financial damages from companies associated with so-called “forever chemicals” released for decades from a Bladen County plant into the Cape Fear River.

Gragg stands in front of a pink quilt top with yellow and blue squares. She is wearing a large necklace, drop earrings and a blue shirt. Her coily hair has streaks of blue.
Dare Kumolo-Johnson

Mavis Gragg never thought her work would “take her to the trees,” but that is where she has found herself. 

red wolf and pup
Brooke Gilley, US Forest Service / Flickr - Creative Commons - https://flic.kr/p/rT5zJf

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revise its recovery plan for red wolves.

A Black man with brown curly hair in an afro wearing a black shirt with orange straps on his shoulders, standing in front of a boat that has a cage on it. The cage appears to be filled with oysters. The boat is white and has 'NC-4883-CJ' written on it.
Jeyhoun Allebaugh, courtesy Ryan Bethea

Ryan Bethea has a job to make many computer-bound office workers jealous. As an oyster farmer, his work takes him out into the waters of Westmouth Bay just off Harkers Island. Bethea farms on five acres and runs his business, Oysters Carolina, which sells fresh oysters to individuals, group events and one restaurant in Durham. 

The Trump administration has said a recent executive order banning offshore drilling that included North Carolina has no legal effect on current applications to survey for offshore oil and gas.

Lightweight coal combustion byproducts could be seen Friday, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018 floating on the top of a lake near Wilmington, N.C., and entering the Cape Fear River.
Duke Energy

Nearly 50 years ago, a power company received permission from North Carolina to build a reservoir by damming a creek near the coastal city of Wilmington. It would provide a source of steam to generate electricity and a place to cool hot water from an adjacent coal-fired plant.

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

President Donald Trump will add North Carolina to a list of southeastern states whose coastal waters won't be subjected to offshore drilling for a decade, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis said on Monday.

A close up picture of the Robber Fly, an orange-eyed fly eating a smaller insect while standing on a green stem.
Matt Bertone

What makes a fly a fly? Well sure, they have wings. But importantly, only two. The larger category for flies is Diptera, which tells you this if you break it down: In Greek, “di” means two (like divide or dialogue), and “ptera” means wing (like pterodactyl). 

Brendan Campbell/Flickr

 

President Donald Trump announced a 10-year moratorium on offshore drilling off the coasts of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina last week. It appears on the surface to be a win for concerned environmentalists, but citizens in North Carolina are left wondering: Why were North Carolina coasts left unprotected?   

Laura Bratton

Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina on Sept. 14, 2018. Two years later, homes and livelihoods are still on the mend. In Craven County, where the city of New Bern was devastated by flooding from the hurricane, disaster recovery groups are still trying to get assistance to nearly 1,400 households affected by the storm. A podcast series called “Storm Stories” focuses on the people and places who may never be the same after the hurricane.

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

A study looking at the effects of GenX on pregnant mice found the chemical compound causes serious problems in both mother and offspring. 

A poster mapping the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
AtlanticCoastPipeline.com

North Carolina has the largest state-recognized Native American population east of the Mississippi River. But until recently, state-recognized Native nations have had little input on issues of environmental governance. 

Michael Hull / via AP

Specialists from the University of Memphis are traveling to North Carolina to monitor aftershocks of last weekend’s 5.1 magnitude earthquake, the school said.

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