WFAE

For the last three years, an advisory panel based at UNC Charlotte has helped guide Duke Energy as the company figures out what to do with coal ash. And, during that time, Duke has also contracted with the university to do scientific research on specific coal ash sites.   

Providing research and advice of this nature requires a degree of collaboration. But, when companies turn to universities for hired expertise, challenges and questions about the relationship can arise. Can such collaboration become too cozy?

This is the last week to sign up for health insurance through the exchange. More than 209,000 people in North Carolina have enrolled as of the first week in December, according to the federal count. 

After Democrat Roy Cooper defeated Republican Governor Pat McCrory a year ago, state environmental secretary Donald van der Vaart gave up his office. After all, he was a McCrory appointee. But he didn't leave the agency. Instead he demoted himself and the department's No. 2 official, John Evans, to staff positions. The two men have since spoken out on policy issues, sometimes at odds with state policy. Now the Department of Environmental Quality has put the van der Vaart and Evans on paid  "investigatory leave."  WFAE's David Boraks joins "All Things Considered" host Mark Rumsey to talk about the situation.

When accusations surfaced that Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old, Raleigh lawyer Catherine Lawson responded with the hash tag #MeAt14. She tweeted a photo of herself at that age with the words: "Can’t consent at 14. Not in Alabama. Not anywhere."

It caught on and thousands used the hash tag to tweet pictures of themselves as a way to emphasize that children that age can’t consent to sex. Lawson spoke with WFAE’s Sarah Delia.

 

Five North Carolina prison workers have died at the hands of inmates this year. In October, inmates killed two prison workers outright and fatally injured two others at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City. An officer was killed in April at Bertie Correctional Institution in the eastern part of the state. The Charlotte Observer's Ames Alexander and Gavin Off have reported on how a staffing shortage may have contributed to those deaths and is making the jobs of many prison officers more dangerous.

For several years, Duke Energy has faced criticisms about its handling of coal ash, including concerns about contamination of groundwater around coal ash storage ponds at power plant sites in the Carolinas. Now, the company is facing scrutiny over the way it engaged with experts hired to study its handling of coal ash ponds. 

An outside expert appointed by a federal court to help draw some North Carolina legislative districts that judges worry remained unconstitutional has suggested changes.

 

North Carolina's two U.S. senators have joined a growing group of Republican colleagues in Congress calling on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to withdraw from the race.

Charlotte's City Council will get five new members - all under the age of 40 - when the new council is sworn in on Dec. 4. That represents a generational shift in city government, says WFAE's Tom Bullock.

The city of Charlotte has made history electing its first African American female mayor. In a landslide victory, Democratic candidate Vi Lyles defeated Republican Kenny Smith. 

Duke Energy has removed about 13 million tons of coal ash at five plants in North Carolina as it complies with federal and state cleanup requirements. But ten times that amount remains in the ground across the state, and not all that will be removed.

Starting today, the North Carolina Medicaid program will pay for medicines to treat hepatitis C for patients no matter how sick they are. In the past, the state wouldn’t pay for the expensive drugs unless the patient had stage two liver damage.  

What if a dam holding back coal ash burst at one of Duke Energy's coal plants in the Carolinas or Midwest? Newly released maps from Duke show many properties would be inundated, including some homes and docks. The maps are now public, after environmentalists threatened to sue. 

On a country road south of Monroe in Union County, near a golf course and soybean fields, is a new kind of farm - a solar farm.  This spring, Duke Energy began generating electricity from 684,000 solar panels here, the largest solar farm in the Charlotte region and one of the largest in the state.

There's a new twist in the ongoing case of North Carolina's 28 racially gerrymandered state legislative districts.

A panel of federal judges has issued an order raising serious doubts about the state's recent redistricting efforts and they hired an outsider to potentially redraw certain districts.

A deal was announced this week to end litigation over legislation that replaced House Bill 2. The proposal would allow transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity…that is only in agencies that are under the governor’s control. But the settlement is missing the approval of one notable defendant: the state legislature. It would also need the approval of a judge. 

Shannon Gilreath, a law professor at Wake Forest University, talks about the deal and an executive order associated with it.   

There is now a disincentive for health insurance navigators to set up shop in rural areas. Navigators are those specially trained people that help consumers sign up for health insurance on the marketplace. The Trump administration has tied their funding to how many people they sign up for coverage on the marketplace. Since chances are higher of signing up more people in urban areas, navigators in South Carolina are focusing on cities at the expense of rural areas.

Updated 7:10 p.m.

A North Carolina environmental group is asking the NC Supreme Court to decide whether it's legal for it to install solar panels on a church rooftop, then sell electricity to the church.  NC WARN is appealing a 2-1 ruling against it last month by the NC Court of Appeals.

President Trump’s decision to stop paying subsidies to insurance companies means many middle class families will likely pay more for coverage. As part of the Affordable Care Act, insurers got those payments to help make health insurance affordable for customers.

The fate of North Carolina's new legislative maps is now in the hands of a federal court. A ruling could come at any time.

But in a new twist in this long-running case, the judges signaled they may be willing to do something the plaintiffs explicitly did not ask for and state lawmakers do not want.

There were a lot of surprises in a marathon special session by the General Assembly last night.

Closed-door meetings led to significant changes in election law, the budget and more.

Some things lawmakers said they would fix were not. Another thing surfaced which could make you wonder if clam is the new pork.

Morning Edition host Marshall Terry and WFAE reporter Tom Bullock discuss just what happened Thursday night in Raleigh.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis spoke candidly before the National Immigration Forum on Thursday, touting his proposal to offer a potential 15-year path to citizenship to so-called "Dreamers," all while shrugging off criticism of the bill from conservative hard-liners.

"This will probably drive my press guy crazy," Tillis said, "But ... when I die, I'm going to be cremated. On my cremation urn or a little plaque next to it, I want to have two or three things -- husband, father, grandfather, RINO."

On Saturday, Donald Trump will visit North Carolina for the first time since he became president. The purpose? To raise money to help him be president past 2020.

President Trump will arrive in Greensboro on Saturday and head to the home of Louis DeJoy and Aldona Wos for a fundraising dinner with some well- heeled friends.

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee say they haven't determined whether Russia colluded with Donald Trump's presidential campaign in an effort to influence last year's election. But, added committee chairman and North Carolina Republican Richard Burr, "You can't walk away from this and believe that Russia's not currently active in trying to create chaos in our election process."

Gun rights vs. gun control. This has become a perennial debate in modern America. After the mass shooting in Las Vegas, it's a debate that again may play out in the halls and chambers of Congress.

Both sides have their champions willing to spend heavily to help their views prevail. So a national campaign finance watchdog has created a spreadsheet to help track which politicians are receiving money from which group. North Carolina's Senators are leading this list – or at least one side of it.

Duke Energy plans to install its first two large-scale battery storage units in 2019 in western North Carolina.  A nine-megawatt battery system will be installed in Asheville and a four-megawatt system is planned in Hot Springs, in Madison County.

The results of Tuesday's primaries are in, and it was a night of upsets in Charlotte. Young challengers beat long time incumbents and the city will have a new mayor.

Republican Kenny Smith easily won his primary. And Vi Lyles defeated Jennifer Roberts and Joel Ford in the Democratic primary. In a surprise, that race wasn't even close.

Electric utilities are preparing for the possibility of widespread power outages if Hurricane Irma blows into the Carolinas next week.  Forecasters say the mostly likely problem will be wind.

UPDATED at 6:10 p.m. Thursday

Governors Roy Cooper of North Carolina and Henry McMaster of South Carolina have both declared a state of emergency so state and local officials can better prepare for Hurricane Irma.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is ordering the evacuations of 143 health care facilities on the coast. He said he’ll decide Saturday morning whether to order an evacuation for residents. But he warns the major highways are already getting crowded with people leaving Florida and Georgia.

A few hundred people gathered in uptown Charlotte on Tuesday to express their anger and fear over the President’s decision to end DACA. They included DACA recipients and those who want to protect the legal status of these immigrants. Here are some of their voices. 

Elver Barrios: "2013 came and I got my work permit and I went to the DMV and I got my driver's license. I was so happy to have a driver's license in the state of North Carolina and to be able to drive without the fear of being deported. 2016 came and many of our dreams were shattered in November." 

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