David Boraks

David Boraks is a WFAE weekend host and a producer for "Charlotte Talks." He's a veteran Charlotte-area journalist who has worked part-time at WFAE since 2007 and for other outlets including DavidsonNews.net and The Charlotte Observer.

Duke Energy has given state environmental officials details of how it plans to provide safe, permanent water supplies to people who live near the company's coal ash dumps.  The filings, for all but two plants, comply with a state law requiring the plans by Dec. 15.

Duke Energy has agreed to pay at least $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit by environmental groups over water pollution near a now-retired coal-fired power plant in Wilmington. 

Unhealthy air is now covering the region, as smokes creeps east from wildfires in western North Carolina. You can see it as you walk down the street. From above, it's even more dramatic, says . WFAE environmental reporter David Boraks. He flew over the fire zone Friday and has this report:

Nearly 1,600 firefighters are now fighting wildfires that have burned 40,000 acres across western North Carolina over the past three weeks. Gov. Pat McCrory says the state has spent $10 million fighting the fires so far.

Duke Energy plans to leave coal ash in place at North Carolina coal ash basins where it hasn't already announced closure plans. Duke announced those plans Friday to comply with federal coal ash cleanup rules.  

Democrat Roy Cooper is claiming victory in his bid to unseat Governor Pat McCrory, though results aren’t final. If he loses, the governor can trace the defeat in part to Mecklenburg County. Changing voting patterns and his stand on controversial issues, including I-77 tolls, have eroded the former Charlotte mayor’s popularity at home. 

As Duke Energy and environmentalists have debated the safety of private wells near coal ash ponds, they've disagreed about the source of a carcinogen called hexavalent chromium. Scientists at Duke University figured out how to identify the chemical’s source. Conclusions from the study of 376 private wells say coal ash likely isn't to blame. WFAE's David Boraks talked with the study's lead author, Avner Vengosh about his research and recommendations.

One of the big debates over the safety of drinking water wells near coal cash ponds is whether a carcinogenic chemical called hexavalent chromium is naturally-occurring. Duke Energy says it is, while environmentalists say Duke’s coal ash ponds are to blame for polluted wells. A new Duke University study shows the chemical does occur naturally and contamination likely isn’t from coal ash. 

Duke Energy has put out a call to renewable energy developers for new projects in the western part of the state. It's part of the company's push to meet a state mandate to generate more energy from sources other than fossil fuels.

New EPA rules require power plant operators nationwide to rate the safety risks of coal ash dams and say how they plan to clean up coal ash basins. Here in the Carolinas, Duke Energy has begun publishing some information. But closure plans won't be made public until next month.

Floodwaters in eastern North Carolina are still rising, but so far haven't swamped any of Duke Energy's active coal ash ponds. But environmentalists worry about older, dry, coal-ash basins that did flood. And they're concerned about how animal waste and dead livestock will affect water quality.

With women's status a key issue in the presidential race, celebrity women from the entertainment and sports worlds aren't shying from the political spotlight. Some are big donors to campaigns and PACs. And some like to hit the campaign trail, as Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan is doing for Hillary Clinton in North Carolina this week.

Forty-eight counties have seen flooding from Hurricane Matthew, and waters are still rising in some areas. State officials are watching dams, checking reports of chemical and fuel spills, and starting to count crop and livestock losses.


You can tell the presidential race is close in North Carolina by the number of political rallies here. On Monday, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was in Charlotte. Wednesday it was Tim Kaine's turn. The Democratic VP nominee was at Davidson College, where he emphasized differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Updated 7:24 p.m.

Duke Energy is getting out of the electricity generating business outside the U.S., through a pair of deals  announced Monday worth $2.4 billion total.

An anti-toll business group in the Lake Norman area is trying to keep the issue of toll lanes on I-77 alive in the November election by backing candidates who oppose the DOT project. It's a bipartisan list, and it doesn't include Governor Pat McCrory.

Duke Energy has agreed to remove about 5 million tons of coal ash in three massive dumps from the Buck Steam Station near Salisbury, and recycle it for use in concrete.  The agreement settles a federal lawsuit filed two years ago against Duke by the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of environmental groups.

Businesses around Charlotte saw sales drop during last week's protests over the shooting death of Keith Scott. But now that a curfew has been lifted and the weekend is approaching, they're hoping for a rebound.

Violence during the first night of protests uptown last Wednesday left some hotels, stores and restaurants, including those around the EpiCentre, with broken windows and other physical damage.

But the week of protests also scared away customers, causing financial damage that most are still recovering from.  

The North Carolina Utilities Commission has approved Duke Energy's $6.7 billion purchase of Piedmont Natural Gas - the final approval needed for the merger. The companies said Thursday they expect to close the deal on Monday, Oct. 3.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says coal ash ponds and landfills disproportionately affect poor and minority communities across the U.S. But that’s not what North Carolina officials found when they conducted their own “environmental justice reviews” of two sites this year.

City officials declared Sunday’s Panthers-Vikings football game an "extraordinary event." That meant lots of police downtown and extra security measures. There was a small protest, but most people welcomed the distraction after a week of unrest.

Updated 7 p.m.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police have released dashboard and body camera videos and other evidence from last Tuesday’s shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Chief Kerr Putney told reporters Saturday afternoon he determined that releasing the videos now won’t hurt investigations of the incident by CMPD and the State Bureau of Investigation.

Duke Energy and state environmental regulators have settled a dispute over the size of a state fine over a coal ash spill near Duke's Dan River plant in Eden in February 2014.  

Duke agreed to pay $6 million for violations of the federal Clean Water Act during and after the spill in February 2014.

The police killing of Keith Scott on Tuesday and nightly protests since then have hit Charlotte’s black community hard. People are dealing with anger, fear and concern about the community’s long-term challenges.

WFAE reporter David Boraks went to a press conference on North Tryon Street with black business owners Friday afternoon. The event was organized by Shaun Corbett, whom some people may know as the leader of a group called Cops & Barbers.

Boraks talked with All Things Considered host Mark Rumsey.  Listen to their conversation here. 


Updated 1 p.m.

Hundreds of people marched through uptown Charlotte for a fourth night Friday, chanting "release the tapes" to protest Tuesday's police killing of Keith Scott.


Police said Saturday afternoon they arrested 11 people, including nine for violating the city's midnight to 6 a.m. curfew. Police allowed the demonstrations to go on past midnight, but began enforcing the curfew around 2 a.m.  A man and a woman were charged with a break-in as well.  

There were no injuries and police said they did not use tear gas, as they have during other protests this week.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5l0F2WRivU

On Friday afternoon, WFAE aired an hour long special discussing the video released by Keith Scott's wife, Rakeyia Scott.

Joining Mark Rumsey were WFAE reporters Tom Bullock and Gwendolyn Glenn and Charlotte School of Law professor Jason Huber. Included in the special were interviews with former Charlotte police chief Darrel Stephens, Charlotte city councilwoman Vi Lyles, and Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D. Brigadier General (Ret), retired general and Army psychiatrist.

Updated Friday, 4:30 a.m.

The family of Keith Scott wants the public to see videos of Scott being shot and killed by police Tuesday.  Members of the Scott family viewed dash-cam and body camera videos of the shooting Thursday. 

The family's lawyers issued a statement afterward, saying the videos raise more questions than answers. They say it’s impossible to tell from the videos, "what, if anything," Scott was holding when officer Brentley Vinson shot him in an apartment complex near UNC Charlotte.

Wednesday night’s protests in uptown Charlotte over a fatal police shooting began with a peaceful rally at Trade and Tryon streets. But then the crowd went in different directions: Some wound up listening to speeches of unity at an uptown church as others confronted police.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper told a business lunch in Charlotte Tuesday that the laws and policies of Gov. Pat McCrory and Republicans are damaging the state's reputation. Cooper says he'll work with citizens and business leaders to repair it.

Cooper, currently the state’s attorney general, made his pitch for the governor's job at the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club at the Palm Restaurant, where McCrory spoke last week.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and some city council members have rejected a compromise that state Republican leaders offered on the controversial House Bill 2. They said they have no plans to vote Monday night on repealing their expansion of the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, which prompted the law.

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