Residents Send Duke Energy Giant Message: Clean Energy Now
Asheville, NC – Duke Energy is the largest utility in the US, and one of largest in the world. It emits more greenhouse gases than any other corporation (almost 2% of total GHG’s), and is fighting a losing battle to protect its right to create dirty energy for the foreseeable future.
Many people were locked out of the hearing the public hearing last night. The doors were locked at 7 pm and no one could get in after that. Speakers at the hearing, even a local mayor as well as a range of environmental and justice organizations, were UNANIMOUSLY opposed to Duke’s Rate Hike proposal. Some advocated breaking up Duke Energy, revoking their corporate charter, and creating real energy democracy with local control.
A local TV station, WLOS, reported:
More than two hundred Duke Energy customers and environmentalists showed up Thursday night at seven for a public hearing inside Courtroom 1A at the Buncombe county courthouse.
At issue, is a proposed major rate hike for Duke customers that will go before the North Carolina Utilities Commission for approval by December. A Duke’s spokesperson confirmed the average rate increase annually would come out to just over $200 per household.
The additional hundreds of millions in added revenues Duke has stated would go towards closing coal ash plants and the building of natural gas plants, but critics who came to Thursday’s meeting said Duke had no right to take customer’s monies for problems it created for itself by illegally dumping coal ash in ponds that had no lining which led to major environmental concerns.
“This rate hike is wrong,” said Sierra Hollister who lives in Asheville and came to the meeting with her husband who spoke before the seven commissioners. “All this time Duke energy has been taking care of shareholders, two billion in profits last year, alone.”
“The proposed rate increase will raise the average household bill for customers by hundreds of dollars each year as you well know,” said Bill Whalen, a senior attorney at Pisgah legal. Whalen pointed out that the non-profit sees hundreds of cases each year of fixed income and struggling families who can’t afford such an increase in their annual utility costs.
“We oppose this plan because it puts the entire burden of costs related to the cleanup of toxic coal ash on our customers,” said Judy Maddox, chairman of the WNC Sierra Club.
Duke spokeswoman, Danielle Peoples said the coal ash piece stems from decades of use by customers for their energy. As the utility moves to nat gas use. she said costs are incurred in closing the old plants down. Peoples said Duke has already spent the money but is looking to recoup costs by the increase in billing to customers.“
“We don’t take asking customers to pay more for energy lightly,” said Peoples. “Over 50% of this rate increase is to provide cleaner sources of energy so there are four solar facilities included in this rate increase.”
“While we are happy to see an increase in solar projects,” said Hartwell Carson, with Mountain True a local environmental non-profit. “Duke continues to double down on fossil fuels requesting over 400-million dollars for natural gas plants.”
Others who spoke before the Commission questioned Duke’s motives questioning Duke’s assertion that demand for energy will increase significantly in coming years and the nat gas plants are needed to support that increase.
One customer presented the Commission with studies he said show there will only be incremental increases in energy demand in the coming decade.
Outside the hearing, those who could not get in rallied and Asheville Community Roots dropped a giant banner across the street from the hearing. Greg Yost reports:
Hi, friends. Just wanted to give a quick update on the video posted earlier. When we last spoke, our intrepid climb team was anticipating arrest. But negotiations with police went well, and they said that if we packed up and came down, they wouldn’t arrest us and would let us walk free. The fire department already had their big ladder truck on the scene, but I think neither police nor fire wanted to take on the challenge of safely removing us and the banner system. So it was win-win for both sides. We kept the banner up for just about as long as we had hoped to, we and the officers stayed safe, and there were no arrests. Awesome.
I (Greg, the guy in the video) also need to make a quick report from the Fast To Support DEQ. I’m realizing that I never reported on the end of that. After doing the water-only fast for 11 days, I ended it when DEQ put the 401 water permit on pause until the pipeline company responds with additional information. All things considered, this was a big win for us pipeline opponents. DEQ and the governor’s office are taking a serious look at the ACP. We know that they’re listening to us.
Please help keep opposition messages streaming into the governor’s office. Call the office (or write them at https://governor.nc.gov/contact-governor-cooper) and let them hear that you oppose the 401 water permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Tell the NC Utilities Commission Duke Energy should pay for its own mistakes. No rate hike! http://appvoices.org/tell_duke_no_rate_hike/