Q&A: North Carolina’s DEQ chief taking agency in new direction

Under current state law, Gov. Roy Cooper’s cabinet appointments may be subject to Senate confirmation hearings. On Jan. 17, however, Michael Regan was sworn in as North Carolina’s Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality at a time when the coal ash issue – something his department is largely responsible for – continues to roil the citizenry and generate billion-dollar bills for industry and possibly Duke Energy ratepayers. Since Regan took office, the department has withdrawn from a multi-state lawsuit against his former employer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over President Obama’s Clean Energy Plan. And while DEQ’s Environmental Management Commission has taken a step back from its pending coal ash rule, the Energy Policy Council – revitalized under Gov. Pat McCrory, though previously dormant – has postponed its next meeting twice.

Federal water bill includes changes for coal ash regulation

On Dec. 16, and without fanfare, President Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act of 2016. Though he didn’t mention it in his official statement, the bill contains an amendment that alters how coal ash will be regulated, with more oversight afforded to the states.

Q&A: How North Carolina co-ops help drive the energy future

While much of North Carolina’s energy focus is on Duke Energy, advancements made by the state’s 26 electric cooperatives, should not be overlooked. Co-op officials say their organizational structure allows them to be nimble, enabling them to incorporate new technology more quickly than large investor-owned utilities, technology that gives consumers added control while helping them to become more energy efficient. And, what they’re learning from a couple of microgrid pilot programs will guide their future renewable energy investments. To learn more about North Carolina’s co-ops – which serve roughly a quarter of the state’s population, Southeast Energy News asked Nelle P. Hotchkiss, Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations at North Carolina’s Association of Electric Cooperatives, to participate in a Q&A. Southeast Energy News: What prompted the creation of electric co-ops in North Carolina?