When Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers testifies before Congress tomorrow on the Waxman-Markey climate bill, he should think about the cross-section of America that gathered outside his Charlotte, N.C., office yesterday to protest Duke's building of another coal-fired power plant.
Religious leaders marched beside business people, joined by seniors concerned about the impact of climate change on their grandchildren's future, parents worried about fossil fuel pollution exacerbating health problems, and Appalachians trying to stop the destruction wrought by mountaintop mining.
Forty-four protesters out of the group of about 300 were arrested for trespassing after they stepped onto the energy giant's property to deliver Rogers a Call to Conscience – a statement of why the 825-megawatt coal plant that Duke is building at its Cliffside complex near Shelby endangers North Carolinians' health and environment.
"We've been trying for years to get Duke to stop Cliffside. We've written comments, been to hearings, attended shareholder meetings. We've held rallies. We're trying to get the message across that they need to stop building Cliffside," said Liz Veazey of the Southern Energy Network.
"When 40 some people put their bodies on the line and risk arrest, it shows this is urgent."
Duke calls the new Cliffside unit "advanced clean-coal," but there's nothing clean about it. The company rejected advanced technology such as IGCC. (Read more about the problems with Cliffside and the holes in Duke Energy's economics arguments at our previous post here.)
Rogers, who will be in Washington to testify alongside other industry officials on the Waxman-Markey climate bill, was in California for a business conference during the Charlotte protest. A spokesperson for the company stepped outside during the protest to answer questions.
Greenpeace North Carolina organizer John Deans called the protest a success for the attention it drew to the diverse opposition to coal-fired power plants.
"It's hard to cover this event without realizing that we're right," he said.
The protest was just the beginning of actions to stop the construction at Cliffside, Deans said, noting that Duke and coal-funder Bank of America both have shareholder meetings coming up in a few weeks.
"We're going to keep hammering this thing."
"It is absolutely hypocritical for Rogers to talk about sustainability and responsibility when Cliffside locks in dangerous climate pollution for another 50 years. If they really want to protect the planet and create jobs, they would invest in wind and solar power instead of more polluting energy."
Photos by Eric Blevins, Melanie Smith