PRESS RELEASE Contacts: Avram Friedman, 828-631-3447
February 19, 2009 Jim Warren, 919-416-5077
Civil Disobedience Planned to Stop New Coal-fired Power Plant
Statement from the Stop Cliffside Coalition:
Charlotte, North Carolina – After serious deliberation, a coalition of health, social justice, faith and environmental organizations will borrow a page from American history’s social and political movements as we fight to halt construction of Duke Energy’s coal-burning power plant at Cliffside, NC.
Due to the gravity of an accelerating climate crisis, health-damaging pollution, an unnecessary spike in power bills, a failed regulatory system, and coal-mining that has already swept away 470 Appalachian mountaintops, the Stop Cliffside Coalition will soon begin a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience. This is necessary to prevent the far greater crime of the plant opening in 2012, as planned.
Several regulatory and judicial actions are being pursued, but construction of the new Cliffside unit continues. The statewide coalition is heeding the call of national leaders such as Al Gore, NASA’s head scientist James Hansen, and writers Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben, who say civil disobedience is now the responsible course of action in order to prevent construction of coal-burning power plants.
Driven by its quest to increase profits, Duke Energy refuses to genuinely consider modern, safe and economical alternatives to the 800 megawatt Cliffside expansion. This is despite the fact that coal plants are the largest sources of greenhouse gases, and of hazardous pollutants that contaminate our food, water and air. The global scientific community is sounding an alarm: that the continued burning of coal will thwart our chances to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. Many parts of the world are already being devastated by weather extremes such as storms, droughts and resulting wildfires.
Pre-construction cost overruns put estimates for the new Cliffside unit at $2.4 billion dollars. While the rest of the U.S. is moving increasingly toward clean, economical energy technologies, completion of the Cliffside plant would commit North Carolina to burning coal for another half-century. A fraction of that price tag could weatherize all existing homes in NC, eliminate the need for new coal and nuclear plants, and create thousands more jobs – statewide – than the handful that would be created at Cliffside.
The Stop Cliffside Coalition and others have now proven in a variety of ways – using Duke’s own data – that the new unit is not needed. The giant energy corporation’s own long-term projection for energy consumption in North Carolina has diminished by half. But rather than reconsidering the Cliffside project, CEO Jim Rogers is seeking to expand outside Duke’s monopoly service area in order to sell more energy at the expense of North Carolina’s health and environment.
Federal courts and a growing list of state governors – most recently South Carolina’s Mark Sanford – are moving against new coal plants, many of them favoring efficiency measures and clean technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal energy. One reason for their opposition is growing concern about carbon dioxide, the primary culprit in global warming. If completed in 2012, the new Cliffside unit would emit six million tons annually of this potent greenhouse gas.
Mining for coal has buried or polluted 1,200 miles of pristine headwater streams in the Appalachians, devastating communities that depend on them for clean water. And toxic sludge ponds at hundreds of power plants across the nation – located next to fresh waterways used for cooling the plants – continue amassing highly concentrated hazardous chemicals and heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury. Ironically, plants employing better air pollution controls have the worst on-site sludge problems, such as the one leading to the January disaster in Kingston, Tennessee.
Duke Energy is currently defying a federal court order to comply with the Clean Air Act by refusing to use the best technologies to control hazardous air pollutants including mercury, dioxins, hydrogen chlorides and fluorides, cadmium, and other toxic chemicals.
Under Duke’s obvious influence, the NC Division of Air Quality has abandoned its responsibility to protect public health and the environment. The agency has consistently worked with Duke to mislead the public, the General Assembly, the US EPA and the courts about the technical capabilities of the emission control equipment included in Cliffside’s air pollution permit.
NASA’s Hansen and other leading climate experts warn that humanity is rapidly running out of time to avert cascading and potentially “explosive” climate changes that would be irreversible – beyond our control! Hansen says this could lead to “a planet on which humans and wildlife are not adapted to living.”
Due to all these reasons, now is the time for people of conscience to confront this out-of-step energy corporation and the state agency that are allowing this crime against public health and the environment to continue.
We will no longer allow Duke to continue “business as usual.” We are determined to stop construction at Cliffside, and turn all North Carolina’s energies toward avoiding a full-blown climate catastrophe – by quickly ramping up energy efficiency and clean generation technologies.
More information will follow shortly.