Groups want green ribbon panel established to help workers make shift to clean energy
DURHAM, NC – An alliance of social justice, labor and environmental groups today called on Governor Pat McCrory to plan ahead for the inevitable closure of coal-fired power plants by appointing a “green ribbon panel” to help coal plant employees and their communities transition to the growing sector of green energy jobs.
In a letter sent to the governor today on behalf of nine allied organizations, the NC NAACP’s President, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, and Jim Warren of NC WARN told McCrory that the inevitable transition away from coal and creating clean energy jobs “should be a high priority for your administration.”
The groups say that, because of the rapid evolution of the electricity industry and the urgency of the climate crisis, all seven of the coal-fired power plants in North Carolina will be shut down at a rate faster than Duke Energy or the state of North Carolina is presently prepared for. They say the coal industry is rapidly going bankrupt and jobs are shifting to the clean energy sector.*
During past mergers and when closing coal plants, Duke Energy has offered early retirement packages, transferred workers to other facilities and set up job training and transition services.
Rev. Barber said today, “On behalf of over 100 NAACP Branches across the State and its 200 Partners in a 10-year peoples’ coalition, we remind you of your moral and constitutional duty to put the health and welfare of our people over the Duke Energy monopoly. We remember well the loss of jobs and hopes caused by the departure of the textile industry – with little or no preparation by our Government. You can lead the state in preparing for Duke’s inevitable closure of coal power plants. You can bring good jobs in the growing clean energy sector now. We see this as an End of Grade Test for your moral and constitutional values.”
Today’s letter was previewed last month when six groups filed a constitutional legal challenge for Attorney General Roy Cooper to alter Duke Energy’s corporate charter to require the utility to stop expanding its use of dirty fuels during an accelerating climate crisis, stop blocking clean energy competition and stop using undue corporate influence over state officials and agencies.
At the seven remaining Duke Energy coal-fired power plants in North Carolina, there are approximately 2,000 employees, and the communities are often majority poor, rural, and/or people of color. The groups say the governor must help ensure the workers and communities are taken care of. They cited an example in Arizona where a utility helped fund job retraining, local government programs, and development of renewable energy to help reduce the burden on communities losing coal-power plants.
For the green ribbon panel, the groups suggested representatives from the Department of Commerce, the Duke Energy industrial recruitment team, NC State University Extension Services, the NC State University Clean Technology Center and similar agencies, and offered to recommend individuals who are especially suited to be part of the panel who have experience in green job creation and local economies.
The organizations signing the letter are: Action NC; Beloved Community Center; Black Workers for Justice; Climate Voices US; Communications Workers of America Local 3607; NC NAACP; NC WARN; North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and North Carolina Climate Justice Summit.
Jim Warren of NC WARN added today, “Proactively addressing this challenge can convert an increasingly uncertain future for the communities hosting coal-fired power plants into one that strengthens the workers, communities and North Carolina as a whole. We are eager to help the governor bring this about.”
*For more on the demise of coal, see the Emergency Complaint to Attorney General Cooper