Protecting North Carolina's air, water, and quality of life
We fight to protect NC’s environment and promote solutions for a safer, healthier state. We collaborate with nearly 100 environmental groups and mobilize tens of thousands of people, like you, to pass strong policies at all levels of government.
Protect Our Environment
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North Carolina: State of the Environment
This report examines the state of the environment by tracking and analyzing over one hundred data sets that capture various dimensions of well-being for North Carolina’s communities and ecosystems.
Lookup Who Represents You
Input your home address into these interactive maps to see who your Congressional, NC House, and NC Senate decision-makers are.
NC’s Riparian Buffers: A Scientific Review
A survey of scientific research offers insight into the important role buffers play in keeping North Carolina waters free of nutrient pollution like nitrogen and phosphorous.
With passage of SL2017-192 (H589), North Carolina has stepped into a new era of energy policy. The Competitive Energy Solutions for NC Act calls for a doubling of solar capacity in the state by 2022, along with advances in community solar and third party leasing, marred by an 18 month-delay for new wind power projects. But, Governor Roy Cooper has called for quick expansion of wind generation after January 2019. In addition to implementing the new legislation, North Carolina faces the challenge of modernizing the electric grid to promote renewables, distributed generation, and gains in energy efficiency, all needed to deliver vibrant economic growth and a low-carbon future.
The water we rely on for drinking, farming, industry, and recreation is all part of a cycle. Rain falls, seeps through the ground or runs into surface streams, is used multiple times on its way to the ocean, then evaporates to begin the cycle again. The water problems we face today – algal blooms, strange contaminants in our drinking water, extreme flooding downstream – usually reflect poor management of water upstream. Fortunately, better stormwater practices, green infrastructure policies, and flow protection can solve these problems and benefit North Carolinians across the state’s 17 river basins.
Federal and state regulatory oversight of toxic chemicals lags decades behind what science tells us about safe exposures, and new toxic chemicals are introduced into commerce and into our environment weekly. Children and pregnant women are particularly at risk through constant, low-level exposures in food, air, water and consumer products. In 2016, the US Congress overhauled the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, and – if implemented – federal rules may now slowly begin to address some of the worst, older chemicals. Meanwhile, consumer activism and state policies offer a hopeful path to a cleaner, safer world for all of us.
Polluted air and water, contaminated soils, and degraded natural places hurt us all – but environmental harms aren’t evenly distributed. In particular, threats to health and life are disproportionately inflicted on communities of color, and on residents with low household wealth. Resistance to environmental injustice started in North Carolina in 1982 with a grassroots fight to block the disposal of PCB-laced soils in rural Warren County. Today communities across the state are fighting to protect themselves from pollution from animal agriculture and fossil-fuel infrastructure.
Communities worldwide are experiencing devastating effects of climate change: hotter summers, rising sea levels, flooding, drought, and wildfires. North Carolina is particularly vulnerable to climate change, as sea levels off the mid-Atlantic coast are rising three times faster than the global average. National leaders are failing to respond, making state and local action – to reduce emissions and adapt to impacts that are already happening – more essential than ever.
Other Recent Issues
Fracking: Hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” is the highly controversial practice of injecting millions of gallons of water and toxic chemicals into the earth in order to extract natural gas. After a rush to open North Carolina to fracking in 2012- 2014, private industry has (fortunately) shown little interest in the state’s minimal deposits. But the experience of other states shows that, if the fracking ever comes to North Carolina, we can expect a panoply of harms to air, water, land, local infrastructure, and the fabric of the communities where it happens.
Coal Ash: Coal ash, generated when power plants burn coal to produce electricity, included toxic metals and cancer-causing organic chemicals. For decades, Duke Energy has stored coal ash in large, unlined pits for decades, with no protection against groundwater contamination and only earthen dams separating the toxic sludge from our state’s surface waters. State legislation in 2014 and ongoing litigation is forcing Duke Energy to excavate some of these pits and rebury the waste in lined landfills – but the future of others remains uncertain, dependent on the political will of legislators and state officials to protect the communities around the facilities.
Defending Our Air & Water: Over the last several years, North Carolina has suffered devastating rollbacks of environmental and public health protections. State legislative leaders have slashed resources for state scientists, and worked to bar regulators from adopting anything more than the minimum, often inadequate federal protections for air and water. We work to educate legislators of both parties on the need to keep strong protections in place for the air we breathe and the water we drink.
What We Do
The NC Conservation Network supports, trains, and coordinates diverse groups and directly advocates to achieve equitable and sustainable solutions for our environment.
Our goals include:
- providing updates and environmental news to NC environmental groups;
- training activists to become more effective advocates;
- fostering healthy patterns of communication and collaboration; and
- convening and facilitating coalitions to address significant environmental issues.