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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Guest - Environmentally Speaking


DEQ to launch new, improved website today

As part of Gov. McCrory’s vision for making it easier to interact with state agencies, DEQ will launch a new website on Feb. 15 that we hope will create a better user experience for our citizens, businesses and partners. As part of the launch, our web address will change to Visitors to the old website will automatically be redirected to the new site.

Governor McCrory believes interacting with government should be as easy as using your smartphone. The new DEQ website aims to fulfill this goal, including a simplified navigation structure, consistent design, and accessibility considerations for disabled users. We’ve also made the site easier to use on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
Our new website is part Digital Commons, an initiative to give all Cabinet agencies a unified look and feel that is consistent across websites to provide better customer service and a predictable interface. Digital Commons allows the agencies to share resources, reduce costs and standardize web processes.
In May 2015, North Carolina rebooted the state’s primary website,, as a part of the Digital Commons project. A few goals included a focus on user experience, design consistency, streamlined service information, mobile optimization, accessibility, and more. Fast forward several months and the numbers are encouraging. Comparing January 2016 to May 2015 we’re seeing 75% more total users of and 140% more mobile users.
The website is scheduled to go live this evening. We look forward to hearing your feedback. 
State will continue to clean up power sector without expending unnecessary resources on illegal federal plan

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to block the Obama administration’s federal power plan, the state will continue to clean up its power sector without expending resources to comply with a plan that is likely to be thrown out in court.

“North Carolina is a national leader in improving air quality while keeping energy prices low,” said Secretary Donald R. van der Vaart. “North Carolina has achieved a 25% reduction in greenhouse gases since 2005 without federal intrusion and we will continue to improve air quality in the manner that best suits our state’s needs.”
The Supreme Court’s decision sends a strong signal that the federal power plan will be overthrown and suspends the federal government’s ability to impose the plan until legal challenges have been resolved. The decision relieves states from unnecessarily spending time and money to create a plan that complies with the rule while the legal case proceeds. North Carolina will not pursue rule development until completion of its legal challenge.
DEQ has requested that consideration of the hearing officer’s report be removed from the N.C. Environmental Management Commission’s Feb. 16 special meeting agenda.
U.S. Supreme Court blocks federal power plan that would raise electricity rates
The U.S Supreme Court made an unprecedented moved yesterday in ruling to put a hold on the Obama administration’s federal power plan that would raise North Carolina power bills and hurt economic growth across the country.  The ruling suspends the federal government’s ability to impose the plan until the legal challenges have been resolved and is a strong indicator that the petitioning states, which include North Carolina, will succeed in their challenge of the rule.
The federal power plan is estimated to increase North Carolina’s electricity rate by 22 percent and would hurt economic growth and threaten job creation across the state with little, if any, environmental benefits. Governor McCrory will continue to fight the Obama administration’s federal overreach in court to protect ratepayers and North Carolina’s economic health.
This effort is the second time in the past six months Governor McCrory's administration has fought federal overreach in federal court and won a stay. In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit put on hold a federal rule that would harm farmers and economic development by greatly expanding jurisdiction over waters never previously regulated by the federal government.
State regulators issue $6.6 million fine to Duke Energy for Dan River coal ash spill

State regulators issued a $6.6 million fine yesterday to Duke Energy for environmental violations related to the February 2014 coal ash spill at the company’s Dan River power plant in Eden. The fine covers civil penalties the company committed before, during and after the spill and only accounts for violations that the utility pled guilty to in criminal court in May 2015. The agency reserves the right to issue additional fines for other violations associated with the spill.

“The state is holding Duke Energy accountable so that it and others understand there are consequences to breaking the law,” Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality Donald R. van der Vaart said. “We are moving forward with enforcement actions against Duke Energy for not complying with environmental laws that protect North Carolina’s environment from catastrophes like the Dan River spill.”

Click here to read the press release.  
Click here to read the Notice of Violation issued in February 2014.
Click here to read the Civil Penalty Assessment.
The Buckridge Coastal Reserve will soon add a vital missing piece thanks to federal wetlands grant, military funding

At more than 27,000 acres, the Buckridge Coastal Reserve in Tyrrell County is already the largest of the 10 sites in the state’s Coastal Reserve program. But it’s about to get even bigger.

Thanks to a grant from the National Coastal Wetlands Program and additional funding from the U.S. Air Force, the reserve will soon acquire an additional 2,040 acres, an area known as the Woodley Tract.
The addition will strengthen the link for more than 400,000 acres of upland and aquatic habitat in the area, including the Buckridge Reserve, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, and tens of thousands of acres of other protected lands.
The reserve’s partnership with the U.S. Air Force and The Nature Conservancy through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program will provide 50 percent of the purchase price of the property, and will help secure operational boundaries around the Dare County Bombing Range.  
Located about 15 miles south of Columbia, N.C., the Buckridge site is part of the East Dismal Swamp, a wetlands complex of more than 320,000 acres in Dare, Tyrrell and Washington counties. The area provides habitat for many rare, threatened and endangered species, including red wolf, bald eagle, Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, red-cockaded woodpecker, and American alligator.
The department’s Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve Program protects natural areas for education, research and compatible recreation. Since its creation in 1989, the program has preserved more than 42,000 acres of unique coastal environments at 10 sites along the coast. 
Take your best shot and enter the Marine Fisheries Reef Guide Photo Contest

Picture your photograph on the cover of the 2016 Marine Fisheries Reef Guide!

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is holding a photo contest to find the best snapshot of a North Carolina artificial reef.
The grand prize winner will receive a $125 cash prize and the photo will be featured on the front cover of the 2016 Marine Fisheries Reef Guide. The second place winner will receive a $50 cash prize, and the third place winner will receive a $25 cash prize. All winners will be recognized with a photo on the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Program webpage.
Entry photos should be taken while fishing or diving on a North Carolina artificial reef.
The photo contest is open to amateur and professional photographers 18 years of age or older. The deadline for entries is noon on March 30. Official contest rules and entry form can be found at
The 2016 Marine Fisheries Reef Guide will be a 5 ½ x 8 ½ waterproof book that compiles information about North Carolina’s artificial reefs and oyster sanctuaries, including maps.
Governor McCrory makes North Carolina a national leader in coal ash regulation

Governor Pat McCrory has made North Carolina a national leader in coal ash regulation and cleanup since Duke Energy’s Dan River coal ash spill two years ago today. Within the first few months of taking office, the McCrory administration began holding Duke Energy accountable for violating environmental laws for many years. The state further intensified its approach  to addressing the long-ignored issue of coal ash after the Dan River spill. The progress Governor McCrory’s administration has made over the past two years stands in stark contrast to the deliberate inaction of previous administrations.

Governor McCrory’s Comprehensive Coal Ash Action Plan provided the framework for North Carolina’s first ever coal ash law, which put Duke Energy on an aggressive timeline to permanently close all of its coal ash ponds. The new law strengthened the state’s authority to clean up and close the ponds, ensures dam safety and protects water quality. The structural integrity of every dam at a coal ash facility has been checked and improved to prevent structural failure similar to what caused the Dan River spill.State regulators required the inspection of all Duke Energy dams and the submission of video inspections of all stormwater and wastewater piping at every pond.
Under the direction of Governor McCrory, the state environmental department issued to Duke Energy the state’s largest-ever penalty for environmental damages. As a result, Duke Energy paid $7 million in fines and penalties for groundwater contamination at all 14 coal ash facilities and is required to spend between $10 million and $15 million in accelerated cleanup costs. We have now turned our attention to holding Duke Energy accountable for environmental violations resulting from the Dan River spill. We have decided not to proceed with a March 2014 agreement with the federal government, given the state has the authority to enforce the law without federal approval. However, we will inform our federal partner of the state's actions.
Coal ash is being moved to environmentally safe storage from five Duke Energy facilities, including all four of the high priority sites identified in the coal ash law. State regulators have issued the necessary approvals to allow for dry ash removal from more than half of Duke Energy’s coal ash facilities. 
We have also begun determining the level of risk each coal ash pond presents to public health and the environment. Staff within the state environmental department developed draft proposed classifications for all coal ash ponds in North Carolina based on months of review of scientific information about each pond’s impact to the environment and public health. The classification process will determine the closure timeline for each of Duke Energy's 33 coal ash ponds in accordance with the framework developed by Governor McCrory. This administration is committed to basing its decisions on science and public input. 
Secretary van der Vaart on solar and nuclear energy as part of NC's all-of-the-above energy strategy
Solar and nuclear energy resources are important tools in Governor McCrory’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, which promotes all sources of clean, reliable and affordable energy. As the only state in the Southeast with a renewable energy portfolio standard, North Carolina has, through various incentives, fostered tremendous growth of the solar energy industry. We ranked 4th in the nation and 9th per capita for total solar electric capacity installed in 2014, making solar a growing part of the state’s energy portfolio.
I have consistently supported the diversification of energy resources, including solar, as a key principle of the McCrory administration’s all-of-the-above strategy. Becoming overly reliant on a single energy resource subjects ratepayers to the spikes in energy prices that accompany uncertainty in the marketplace. Because solar facilities supply energy only when the sun is shining, utility companies must burn natural gas or coal to ensure that customers have a constant source of electricity. Nuclear energy is the only source of zero-emission, always-on baseload electricity. It can provide the around-the-clock electricity that intermittent sources cannot. Both solar and nuclear power are important to our energy mix.
The proliferation of solar farms in North Carolina does present the challenge of what to do with the solar panels when they reach the end of their useful life (approximately 20 years). One option employed by the federal government for solar installations on federal land is to require a decommissioning plan that ensures money is available to safely dispose of the panels and return the land to productive use.
While the renewable industry continues to grow in North Carolina, new nuclear generation is needed to assure that residents and businesses have reasonably priced and reliable energy for years to come. A nuclear facility can produce around-the-clock, affordable, clean energy for more than 80 years. I recognize that using both forms of energy will help cleanup North Carolina’s power sector while keeping energy prices.


State report explains science behind initial coal ash classifications

RALEIGH – State environmental experts released the scientific data used to determine the risk level each coal ash pond presents to public health and the environment. This classification will determine the closure timeline for each of Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds in accordance with the framework developed by Governor Pat McCrory.

“Thanks to Governor McCrory’s unprecedented leadership to solving this decades-old problem, North Carolina is closer to the permanent closing all of Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds,” said Secretary Donald R. van der Vaart. “The report released today provides a clear path to permanently removing the threat coal ash presents to public health and the environment.”

To read the full press release click here.

To read the comprehensive report clickhere.

To read the Executive Summary of the Draft Proposed Impoundment Classifications, click here.

To watch DEQ Assistant Secretary Tom Reeder’s videotaped statement, click here.

To read a Frequently Asked Questions document, click here

For a map of draft classifications for each coal ash impoundment, click here

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