By Jeremy Loeb
An opponent of the Duke Energy plan to convert its coal-fired plant in Asheville to natural gas says the plan would be a disaster in the fight against climate change. Dr. Harvard Ayers, Executive Director of the Boone-based group The Climate Times, says the primary component of natural gas, methane, is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. His group and another environmental group, Durham-based NC WARN are hoping to stop the plant, but have so far been stymied by the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The commission required they pay a $98 million bond to appeal the plant, which is many times greater than the combined budgets of the two environmental groups. The groups were unable to pay and their appeal was dismissed. But they are now taking that fight to the state court of appeals.
Meanwhile, Duke Energy says natural gas would be a cleaner source of power for western North Carolina. Duke spokesman Tim Pettit says the bond was necessary to protect Duke customers from the costs that would be passed on because of what could have been a two year delay to the project. They’re hoping to bring the converted plant online in 2020. He says Duke works hard to prevent any leaks of methane at its power plants and that any leaks occurring through hydraulic fracturing on the front end of the process has nothing to do with them. He also said the Duke values solar and wind as a part of their energy infrastructure, but that renewable energy cannot replace what he deemed more reliable sources like fossil fuels and nuclear.