Regulators can’t let Duke skip full-blown review process based on senator’s gift
Statement from Director Jim Warren:
State regulators must fully examine Duke Energy’s upcoming application to build a large gas-fired power plant or reject the plant. The project is already highly controversial and will grow more so as the public learns that the plant is not needed, that it would accelerate the climate crisis and would create the risk of soaring electricity rates due to the extreme volatility of natural gas supply and pricing.
NC WARN and The Climate Times filed a motion today with the NC Utilities Commission to intervene in the case following a Wednesday notice by Duke that it will file the application seeking approval for the Asheville plant on or after January 15.
We further moved that the “Commission establish a considered process for an evidentiary hearing to gather testimony and evidence on the proposed project OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE deny the application because the Commission, and parties, will be unable to investigate the costs and impacts of the proposed project if the Commission holds itself to a 45-day timeline.”
In a startling gift to Duke Energy, a new state law pushed through by Senator Tom Apodaca called for the NC Utilities Commission to approve the plant application within 45 days of its filing regardless of complexities. Such cases for billion-dollar projects often take many months and involve thousands of documents involving complex economic and technical issues.
The 45-day limit is arbitrary. The Commission can deem the application incomplete until an evidentiary hearing is conducted. Also, Duke Energy has the right to waive the 45-day limit in order to prove its case for the plant.
The plant would add nearly 800 megawatts of gas-fired generation capacity to service the western parts of both Carolinas, according to Duke’s preliminary notice. Duke has committed to closing two coal-fired units at the site, which provided power totaling 174 MW last year.
NC WARN and The Climate Times have already secured assistance from technical and economic experts – who need to be heard – along with outside attorneys.
Recent science confirms that methane is 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide for ten years following emission, that large amounts of methane are leaking from conventional and shale gas wells, and that the fracking gas industry has been riding a financial bubble that is rapidly collapsing.
As we have told the attorney general, Duke needs to rapidly phase out coal-fired plants, stop expanding fracked gas, and stop limiting the growth of renewables and efficiency measures that can truly decarbonize the Carolinas.