Groups demand open hearing of the unneeded, climate-busting power plant
Joint statement by Dr. Harvard Ayers of The Climate Times and NC WARN’s Jim Warren:
Durham, NC – An attempt by Duke Energy and state regulators to race through a rubber-stamp approval of an unneeded, climate-busting, fracking gas-fired power plant has become one of the most convoluted legal cases in North Carolina history, with no end in sight.
Duke and the NC Utilities Commission have repeatedly erected roadblocks against arguments by NC WARN and The Climate Times that the abbreviated, 45-day approval of the $1 billion Asheville plant, which officially ended with the commission’s rubber-stamp on March 1, was unlawful.
Today, the nonprofit partners again moved past those roadblocks. We’re urging the NC Court of Appeals to overrule the $98 million bond the commissioners set in an attempt to prevent us from appealing their own decision approving the plant. Also, we want the court to ensure, at long last, that this unprecedented case gets the open airing – with expert witnesses fully heard and cross-examination of Duke officials – that’s required by law.
Since the March 1 commission approval, this case has yo-yo’d through various appeals and regulatory and court orders – a mess created by continual efforts by the commission and Duke Energy to avoid an open, fair examination of the $1 billion power plant. Most of that time has been spent debating the massive bond, ordered by the commission under a bizarre state law, which they used to block our path to the courts.
On August 2 the commission ruled against our original appeal of the plant approval based on our failure to post the absurd $98 million bond.
Duke Energy’s efforts to prevent an open airing of the case, and the commission’s deference to those efforts, become more curious as the months pass. For eight months we have insisted that Duke should make its case for the plant openly, and to address our three prominent experts who argue the project would be a disaster for climate and customers – and that basic math proves the two new gas generators simply are not needed amid a glut of regional supply.
We have repeatedly insisted that the two small, little used coal–fired units on the Asheville site must be demolished.
Duke Energy is among several utilities seeking a gigantic increase in the burning of fracked gas despite burgeoning evidence that gas supplies are far lower than industry projections and as concerns mount that the natural gas industry has become the leading driver of US greenhouse emissions due to super-potent methane spewing into the air from equipment throughout the system.
On a separate track, we are filing a 3-pronged procedural appeal with the commission that likely will also lead back to the NC Court of Appeals. This is being done in order to keep all appeal routes available. It is unfortunate that citizen groups must resort to the legal system to protect the public interest when pro-utility regulators fail to do so.