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Jim Warren: Enormous Stakes — The News & Observer

Two letters were run in today’s News & Observer, one from us and one from Duke Energy. Below is NC WARN’s letter as submitted. See the published version here. Here is Duke’s letter with some very interesting perspectives on our role as a non-profit fighting for clean and just energy.

As the N&O reflected, Duke Energy and regulators are trying to use a giant bond to prevent NC WARN and The Climate Times from appealing the fast-track approval of a $1 billion power plant in Asheville in a process NC WARN deems rigged in Duke’s favor (Nonprofits contest $240M bond to fight Duke Energy, June 30).

In fact, there is no precedent for requiring any bond to appeal such a construction project.

The Utilities Commission seems desperate to shield itself and Duke Energy from scrutiny of the nationally unprecedented, fast-track approval.  During the original proceeding, we repeatedly urged the commission to require Duke to openly make its case for the plant.

Instead, the regulators bypassed the normal quasi-judicial process, and approved the plant in 45 days without cross examination of Duke officials and while disregarding our three prominent experts.  Those experts sought to testify that Duke can close the site’s coal units without building gas-burning plants due to a glut of regional supply; that the future supply and price of natural gas are highly risky, and; that Duke’s shale gas plant would amplify greenhouse pollution at the worst possible time due to methane emissions throughout the US natural gas infrastructure.

The stakes are enormous.  Duke Energy plans to build 15-20 large gas-fired power plants along with a large pipeline into North Carolina from the shale fields.  We believe Duke will seek similar, fast-track approvals for those plants.

Moreover, with an ongoing 13 straight months of global heat records, and with scientists warning insurers that sea level could rise 10 feet by 2050, and with the natural gas industry now deemed the leading driver of US greenhouse emissions, Cornell’s Dr. Robert Howarth must be heeded: Duke Energy’s shift to a fracked gas future would be disastrous for the climate.

We’re asking the NC Court of Appeals to require an open, careful debate over Duke’s project.  If Duke Energy is so uncertain about its case for the plant, its shareholders should bear any risks of proceeding with construction.

And we’ll continue speaking out when state officials favor Duke Energy instead of the public interest.

Jim Warren
Executive Director
NC WARN, Durham

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