The Green Scene

The E-Conservation Program is helping North Carolina residents go green this year. Administered locally by the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension, the program can help area residents stay warmer while saving them money. A workshop scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 21, in Asheville will kick things off with a bonus: a discounted home energy audit for those residents who complete the workshop — and whose home is 2,000 square feet or less and more than 5 years old. With grant funding from the state, the extension office is subsidizing most of the cost of a $350 energy audit, which program participants can get for just $100.

In the audit, a certified professional will analyze the home's energy profile, identifying steps that can be taken to decrease energy consumption, improve indoor air quality and increase comfort. Solutions vary for each residence, ranging from installing additional insulation to air-sealing the structure to replacing outdated mechanical systems. Homeowners can make some of these improvements themselves; others must be done by a licensed professional. But Extension Agent Nancy Ostergaard emphasizes, "The workshop will focus on the practical things people can do."

Typically, the auditor also identifies potential dangers, such as carbon monoxide entering the home due to back-drafting furnaces and other combustion devices. A summary report details the different measures' cost-effectiveness and payback period.

To qualify for a subsidized energy audit, you must attend the E-Conservation workshop. Preregistration is required, as space is limited to 35 participants; to register, call 255-5522. The extension office is at 94 Coxe Ave. in downtown Asheville. The two-hour workshop starts at 5:30 p.m.

He sees you when you're dumping

Either more people are tossing litter along North Carolina roadsides, or more people are taking the trouble to report them. The N.C Department of Transportation's Swat-A-Litterbug Program received and processed more than 11,700 littering reports from Jan. 1 through Dec. 30, 2009. That's a more than 20 percent increase from the 9,600 reports received the year before.

"North Carolinians are tired of seeing people litter and are continuing support of the department's Swat-A-Litterbug Program," notes Transportation Secretary Gene Conti. "Through this program, all North Carolinians can do their part to reduce litter and educate motorists who intentionally dispose of unwanted trash onto the state's roadsides."

The DOT's Office of Beautification Programs and the N.C. State Highway Patrol jointly administer Swat-A-Litterbug. Motorists spotted dumping trash receive a letter informing them that littering is illegal and is punishable by fines ranging from $250 to $2,000, a possible point on the offender's driver's license, and required community service.

Citizens wishing to make a report must record the vehicle's license-plate number; the date and time of the incident; the street name, city and county; and a description of the offense observed. A report can be submitted through the mail, by phone or online via the Office of Beautification Programs' Swat-A-Litterbug Web site.

For more information or to file an online report, visit Call 1-877-DOT-4YOU to report an incident, or 1-800-331-5864 to get a mail-in card.

EPA acts on West Va. coal mining

Appalachian coal mining has buried an estimated 2,000 miles of streams in states in the region, including West Virginia, which supplies some of the coal used in power plants in Western North Carolina, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports.

Seeking to reduce water-quality problems caused by surface coal-mining operations, the EPA has been granted an extension of a court-ordered deadline for determining whether the Mingo Logan Mining Co.'s proposed Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, West Va., will comply with the Clean Water Act. Citizen lawsuits have delayed the opening of the mine — which would be one of the largest mountaintop-removal operations in the Appalachian coalfields — for the past 10 years. The EPA has confirmed that burying 7.5 miles of healthy headwater streams would violate the Clean Water Act.

In another action, the EPA announced that it now supports issuing a permit for the Hobet 45 mine in Lincoln County, operated by Hobet Mining. Extensive discussions between the agency and the company resulted in additional environmental protections, such as reducing stream impacts by 50 percent, officials say.

"These are important examples of EPA's work to bring clarity to this process," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a press release. "Our role, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, is to ensure that mining companies avoid environmental degradation and protect water quality so that Appalachian communities don't have to choose between jobs and their health."

No additional construction may be done at Spruce No. 1 until the agency determines that the planned project would comply with the Clean Water Act. If no agreement is reached with the company, the EPA may take the next step in the process to prohibit or restrict mining activity.

Send your environmental news to or call 251-1333, ext. 152.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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One thought on “The Green Scene

  1. Paul Smith

    That is so awesome to hear that people will be able to get a home energy audit free! A great, human, funny, knowledgeable resource to help people take their home energy efficiency efforts further is Energy Circle. Started by people who were themselves trying to figure out how to save energy, money, and make their homes healthier, it’s become quite the resource. Check them out at

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