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The Supreme Court throws out a Trump-era ban on gun bump stocks; a look at how social media algorithms and Shakespearian villains have in common; and states receive federal funding to clean up legacy mine pollution.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

North Carolina weighs in on Duke Energy's methane gas proposal

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Monday, April 29, 2024   

The North Carolina Utilities Commission is giving residents a chance to voice their opinion on a plan which could influence how their electricity is generated and impact costs for years to come.

The state is updating its Carbon Plan, and in it Duke Energy is proposing a build out of 8.9 gigawatts of new gas plants, representing one of the largest buildouts of new gas plants of any utility in the country. The plan is raising concerns among residents and environmental advocates.

Naomi Albert, North Carolina field coordinator for the advocacy group Appalachian Voices, warned it could affect electricity rates, while posing risks to the state's climate goals and community health.

"For the communities that are directly adjacent to them, there are health concerns," Albert pointed out. "Burning fossil fuels, like methane gas and coal, produces air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and others that contribute to the development of a whole host of diseases including lung disease, asthma."

Albert highlighted the issue of winter reliability. During Winter Storm Elliot, the failure of gas-powered generation resulted in widespread power outages across the eastern half of the U.S., including 500,000 Duke Energy customers in the Carolinas.

Residents will get the chance to speak in person this week at two public hearings. The first hearing will be today in Wilmington at the New Hanover Courthouse, and the second will take place Tuesday at the Durham County Courthouse.

House Bill 951 outlines energy targets North Carolina utilities must achieve, including a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the electric power sector by 2030, and complete carbon neutrality by 2050. Albert pointed out the proposed plan does not help meet the stated goals and will leave customers with unpredictable bill increases, driven by fuel volatility.

"Recent analysis by EDF and EQ Research shows that high gas prices have driven up electricity rates in recent years," Albert reported. "They found that increased fuel costs drove 67% of the increase in residential rates in Duke Energy Carolina service territory. "

Albert believes improvements can be made to the plan to meet the goals outlined by the state and incorporate resources to increase renewable energy. As the public hearings approach, she urged North Carolinians to raise their voice and share what they think. People unable to make the in-person hearings can leave a comment on the commission's website.


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