The following letter was sent today by 11 public interest groups.
We urge the news media and elected officials to hold Duke Energy and the state accountable at this crucial time of climate crisis. Note that nearly four dozen coal-fired plants have been defeated.
December 17, 2007
James E. Rogers
Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer
Duke Energy Corporation
PO Box 1090
Charlotte, North Carolina 28201-1090
Subject: Seeking your reconsideration of Cliffside expansion due to worsening climate disruption
Dear Mr. Rogers,
New evidence adds to the imperative that North Carolina take all possible actions to dramatically decrease greenhouse gas emissions – not greatly increase them with another coal-fired power plant at Cliffside, NC. Public interest groups across the state are calling on you, as CEO of the third largest greenhouse polluter in the U.S., to provide leadership at this critical time.
The U.S. public is belatedly awakening to the grave reality that global warming is already causing serious damage and the rate is accelerating. Among the recent news:
RAPIDLY MELTING POLAR ICE: NASA reported last week that the permanent cap of sea ice in the Arctic shrank to a record low last summer – and researchers believe summer sea ice could be gone within five years. This has great implications for weather patterns that are already changing rapidly.
WEATHER DISASTERS ARE SOARING: British-based charity Oxfam reported last month (Climate Alarm) that weather-related disasters have quadrupled over the last 20 years and that 250 million people are already suffering each year. As Oxfam said, “It follows a pattern of more frequent, more erratic, more unpredictable and more extreme weather events.”
EXPERTS DEMAND ACTION: The global scientific community just redoubled its warning that climate change is accelerating, that weather extremes will become even more common, and they’re calling for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gases.
OTHERS ARE CANCELLING COAL PLANTS: Nearly four dozen U.S. coal-fired plants have been canceled or scaled back in recent years – a national readjustment to the climate crisis.*
Regarding your concern about climate change, you have stated, “We need to apply the grandchildren test.” If you are sincere, you will not go forward with the Cliffside plant. Trying to build big power plants – coal or nuclear – is squandering our chances to slow global warming. We simply must begin to drastically cut greenhouse emissions through proven energy efficiency and clean generation. The key barrier is the opposition of utility CEOs who want to build large, lucrative power plants.
Since arriving in North Carolina last year, you have spoken often about climate protection and clean energy. Meanwhile, other large corporations including power companies are truly moving ahead. Increasingly, families, faith communities and businesses are cutting greenhouse gas emissions by becoming energy efficient. However, those efforts would be largely negated by your single 800 megawatt Cliffside plant, which would release 6 million tons of greenhouse gases annually for the next 50 years.
The public interest community supports generous but fair profitability for North Carolina utilities in efficiency and renewables. Your Save-a-Watt proposal barely hints at the potential cost-effective savings. We urge you to make energy efficiency the “first fuel,” instead of the “fifth fuel” as you now describe it.
North Carolina must do its part – not lag behind. As NASA climate expert James Hansen said during his visit to North Carolina last month: “Stopping this new coal plant is the best thing [North Carolina] can do to slow global warming.”
Tackling the climate crisis will require all possible cooperation by diverse parties. You have the personal stature and resources to genuinely lead, and public interest groups are eager to join you in this momentous challenge. We would greatly prefer that relationship with you, not one where you face continuing legal fights over Cliffside’s air pollution permit, rate impacts, water and other issues, along with growing opposition and animosity from citizen groups from across the political spectrum.
To be clear, the opposition will not stop if you begin construction; crossing that threshold would only amplify the fight, particularly as more is learned both about climate change, and the clean energy solutions that are being adopted quickly in free markets.
In addition to worsening global warming and upcoming carbon pricing, Cliffside faces other major uncertainties. By doubling its daily water evaporation from present levels – to 21 million gallons per day – Cliffside poses an increasingly unreliable source of electricity in a warmer, drier climate. Also, with the nation facing a potentially severe and long-term recession, there exists the very real possibility that rising construction and financing costs, along with lower demand, could leave Duke Energy customers with another partially completed, multi-billion dollar white elephant – as happened in the 1980s.
We look forward to applauding you for making the right decision at this crucial juncture in North Carolina’s history.
Scott Gollwitzer, In-House Counsel
Avram Friedman, Executive Director
Carolinas Clean Air Coalition
June Blotnick, Executive Director
Clean Water for North Carolina
Hope Taylor, Executive Director
North Carolina Conservation Network
Brian Buzby, Executive Director
North Carolina Fair Share
Lynice Williams, Executive Director
North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light
Alice Loyd, Executive Director
Jim Warren, Executive Director
Sierra Club, South Carolina Chapter
Susan Corbett, Conservation Chair
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Ulla-Britt Reeves, Regional Program Director
Students United for a Responsible Global Environment
Alison Carpenter, Co-Director
* Defeated US coal plants; list as of October 12th (since then, at least six more plants have been stopped): List