This week's topic: Coal ash in North Carolina -- What is it? Why and how should we regulate it? And how soon will we will see coal ash cleaned up?
Coal ash grabbed the national spotlight back in February – when a wastewater pipe burst at Duke Energy’s Eden Plant -- spilling an estimated 39,000 tons into the Dan River. What many news media outlets are commonly calling toxic sludge coated about 70 miles of that waterway – which winds along the North Carolina – Virginia border.
The objective of the local “Celebrating the Dream” initiative that’s currently ongoing is to measure this region’s progress toward racial equality over the past fifty years—which is how long ago the Civil Rights Act was passed--and also to gauge the work that still needs to be done. But because state voting laws were recently changed, some argue that North Carolinians actually stand to regress over the course of the upcoming election. It’s why the state NAACP has organized a crew of Moral Freedom Summer fighters to run a statewide, nonpartisan voter empowerment campaign.
Area beach-goers planning to hit the waves this Fourth of July weekend can rest easy in one respect. Three Cape Fear-area beaches have fetched high marks on this year’s report card from the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC—an environmental watchdog group that grades beaches based on water quality. Out of 3500 coastal and Great Lakes beaches, only 35 were deemed “superstars”—and this elite grouping counts sections of Wrightsville Beach, Sunset Beach, and Topsail Beach.
After enduring exposure to toxic herbicides including Agent Orange, Vietnam War veterans face higher incidence of neurological malfunction, respiratory disease and some forms of cancer—and in many cases, their children and grandchildren do, too. This is why Wilmington’s chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America is hosting a town-hall-style meeting tomorrow. Their objective is to spark local support for federal legislation that will better protect such victims—long after their current caretakers, who are usually their parents, have passed on.
As state legislators continue to hammer out the budget, citizens of all political persuasions are awaiting word on the fate of this region’s bustling film business. And that’s why this morning, a contingent of officials and residents from the Wilmington area gathered in Raleigh’s legislative building to plead with lawmakers to extend the current film incentive tax credits—instead of switching to a grant program, which they say would eliminate jobs. But rather than demonstrating film’s bona fides within the Cape Fear region, local lawmakers focused on its statewide benefits.
Cape Fear Community College is joining a nationwide effort to help prepare Baby Boomers to take on new jobs. CFCC was recently granted funding from the American Association of Community Colleges to create and expand programming that will engage the region’s fifty-plus population in the fields of health care, education and social services. CFCC’s “Encore Program,” as it’s dubbed, takes off in the fall. But first, they’re busy assessing the unique needs of this area’s aspiring senior students.
This week's topic: Film Incentives in North Carolina
Providing tax breaks to the film industry…. statewide, it’s a controversial topic. In Southeastern North Carolina, there’s no question incentives have injected hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy through the boom in film production here. But plenty of state leaders from less film-centric areas aren’t convinced the financial benefits of the industry extend statewide.
Wilmington’s Sutton Plant is one of five statewide Duke Energy coal operations being decommissioned—and the closing of this one is of high priority to lawmakers. In November, Duke Energy retired Sutton’s coal operations. Although it’s now a natural gas plant, more than two million tons of dried coal ash—the waste generated after coal is burned—remains on the site. And the legislation that will determine exactly how much time Duke has to dispose of it all is pending in the General Assembly’s current session. WHQR has this look at the Sutton Plant’s retired coal operation.
Last year’s hotly debated puppy mill bill may be back on the table. The North Carolina House has passed a budget amendment that would shift animal welfare oversight from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Public Safety. This would allow law enforcement officials to inspect commercial dog breeders, and charge those operating with ten or more female dogs.
Pender County is getting more than two million dollars from the U.S. Department of Commerce to help bolster its economy. The award, announced yesterday, will go toward construction of a wastewater treatment plant that will serve manufacturing operations in Pender Commerce Park. That’s just off of Highway 421, north of the New Hanover County line. So far, that park is empty--but by the end of this year, it will be home to a major seafood processing facility.