Neighbors, students and faculty to protest Monday over President Brodhead’s lack of transparency and refusal to debate outside experts about “global warming machine”
Hauling in signs, chants and street theater props, neighbors of Duke University plan to call a “flagrant foul” against the president of the basketball powerhouse at a Monday meeting that was quietly arranged just days ago by the administration. Durham residents are angry that university officials have blocked open debate about a Duke Energy proposal for a campus power plant that would burn fracked gas, increase greenhouse gases and local air pollution, and gouge off-campus customers for what experts say is a totally unneeded power plant.
They will be joined by students and faculty who oppose the plant and are frustrated by President Richard Brodhead’s secrecy, misleading public statements and failure to openly debate concerns based on in-depth analysis by NC WARN’s power generation expert.
It appears the hastily called Monday meeting resulted from NC WARN’s complaint to Brodhead last week after the Durham-based nonprofit learned that, for four months, a select group on campus had been secretly reviewing the project while excluding community voices.
NC WARN believes the secretive group has apparently already decided to recommend, very soon, that the board of trustees seek regulatory approval of the project. NC WARN told Brodhead the university faces years of legal battles and protests if they continue acting behind closed doors.
Campus Sustainability Committee Stakeholder Meeting
Monday, March 27, 6:30-8:00 PM
Gross Hall 107, Ahmadieh Auditorium, 140 Science Drive, Durham
Elena Everette, one of the West End community residents frustrated with campus officials, said, “We’re appalled by the secrecy and lack of respect, and we will fight this for years if necessary. We live here and we will not stand for being dumped on again by Duke University. And we are duty-bound to block this global warming machine that Duke Energy is trying to stick in our midst.”
She added that the time to seek input from those most impacted was at the beginning of discussions, not after campus leaders have already decided to press for approval by the trustees.
University officials have been working with Duke Energy since at least early 2016 on plans to build the climate-busting power plant that would burn fracked gas. It announced the project last May just as students left for the summer. Under growing pressure, Brodhead suspended the project in December. NC WARN only recently learned that – after months of dodging debate with the group’s clean energy engineer – Brodhead had, in December, quietly convened the select group of campus-only “stakeholders” to review the fracked gas project behind closed doors.
Tom Clark, from the Old West Durham community north of campus, said “This meeting looks like a dog-and-pony show and it is no way to treat your neighbors. It’s deeply troubling that they’ve been planning this polluting plant for over a year and have just now – under pressure – called a short notice ‘public’ meeting. And it is deeply troubling that, with so much at stake, they’re refusing to respond to concerns and suggestions from neighbors and outside experts.”
Clark added that “the people of Durham deserve respect – not a cold, corporate approach to community relations.”
The Durham-based NC WARN – whose office is only blocks from Brodhead’s, warned him and the trustees that they face years of court battles and protests if they proceed. The 29 year-old nonprofit has begun running ads in many news outlets challenging the lack of transparency, summarizing core concerns with the project and promoting a cheaper, clean-energy approach, all of which they have reported to Brodhead in depth.
They say University officials have repeatedly chosen not to even attempt to defend the project.
Among NC WARN’s key points: Duke Energy proposes to use a loophole that allows ten times more local air pollution than allowed at similar plants.
They also say that campus officials continue repeating “a corporate whopper” by claiming the new plant would cut the university’s global warming pollution (because Duke Energy would technically own the campus plant.) NC WARN’s unchallenged analysis shows greenhouse emissions would increase by 61 percent.
And they keep asking Brodhead why he is promoting Duke Energy’s fracked gas future by trying to build an unneeded global warming machine on campus after scientists have learned in recent years that the US fracking boom is driving the global climate crisis due to super-potent methane spewing from equipment throughout the gas production and transportation process.