Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Challenging Duke Energy

North Carolina Activists Rise Up to Challenge Duke, the NC Utilities Commission, & Gas Infrastructure in the state

This weekend (February 20th) activists in North Carolina made a frontal assault on Duke Energy's plans for 11,000 MW of new gas fired electrical generation, and on the North Carolina Utilities Commission, which Duke has captured and whose commissioners have become Duke's willing stooges. As it is elsewhere, the NC permitting process for fracked and natural gas infrastructure is shamefully rigged and predictable. Democracy has been undermined, and the regulators have taken it upon themselves to regulate us, the public, and to do the bidding of industry. Our goal for the weekend was to try to turn that around and restore energy democracy. 


On Saturday, February 20, approximately 25 of us gathered at 9 AM at Asheville City Hall for a rally and send-off on this ten mile march. Katie Kicks of Clean Water NC, Asheville City Councillor Gordon Smith, and Greg Yost, and Cathy Scott  spoke  about the need to challenge Duke's plans for a 752 MW facility in Skyland, and the rigged, fast track process by which it is being permitted. The Green Grannies sang two great songs with Debbie Genz's dog yoddling accompaniment. Fifteen of us took off from City Hall, talking to and leafletting passersby as we walked. And chanting loudly about energy democracy.We made several stops at various businesses along the way which gave us a chance to talk to customers and managers: Atlanta Bread Company, Ingles, Earthfare, Fresh Market, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts. Many customers and passersby thanked us for our challenging Duke, and many passing cars honked and saluted us. At Lake Julian, which is the cooling pond for the coal fired plant there, we walked across Duke's dam and arrived at the gates of the Skyland Plant at about 3 PM. There we rallied with our banner, and blocked the main entry gate for about 20 minutes. Being Saturday afternoon, there was no security, and no cars tried to enter while we were there. Two Buncombe County police cars showed up as we were leaving, as did Jason Walls, Duke's district manger for Western North Carolina. Jason Walls spent about twenty minutes talking with us, answering questions, and trying without success (because it can't be done) to justify Duke's policies.


On Sunday, February 21, nine activists from around NC went to Raleigh for the Monday meeting of the NC Utilities Commission meeting where Duke's proposals for the 752 MW gas fired power plant in Asheville were being presented. As expected the meeting was a sham, a rigged opportunity for state regulators to provide the illusion of democracy while doing Duke's bidding. Led by 16 year old Anna Farlessyost, who talked about the extreme dangers that  NC's energy policies  have created for the future of young people, we repeatedly interrupted the Commission's proceedings. Eight of us made speeches challenging the Commission's rigged proceedings, and Duke's arguments for gas fired power. In spite of Commissioner Finley's repeated threats to have us cited and arrested for contempt, most of us managed to speak for about a minute before being dragged from the proceedings by uniformed police. Our popcorn style interruptions were spread out over the entire three hour meeting.

Future Plans: Plans are being hatched to create a  coalition of like minded individuals and organizations in NC for ongoing challenges to Duke's Energy Modernization Plans, which will simply continue nineteenth century fossil fuel addictions. Stay tuned, and please if you want to work with us. get in touch.  

Contact Steven Norris at 828-777-7816 or earthsun2@gmail.com to get involved.

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