It’s been a true privilege to work with attorney John Runkle for the past 12 years. While we already miss his steady hand, wisdom and spirit after his August retirement, we’re happy he’s finally been able to slow down a little. Thanks to the many friends who joined us to celebrate this fine man on a hot July afternoon in Orange County.
Over the many years, John shared his legal skills – not for riches, to be sure – with communities all over North Carolina. Some fights were won, others lost, but John was there to make sure folks had legal protection against being trampled by polluters or various government agencies.
John was an early, inner-circle player in NC WARN for a while in the late 1980s. Later, in 2006, he became our general counsel and remained a weekly voice in our inner strategy team. But John’s much more than a thinker: He helped implement all key projects as we have wrestled Duke Energy over its climate-wrecking practices and abuse of the public and the democratic process.
His first big cases with us came as NC WARN and the Union of Concerned Scientists forced the Harris nuclear plant (now owned by Duke) to spend millions to upgrade lax fire and security protections.
Among other highlights, John was key to NC WARN and allies defeating one of two giant coal-fired power plants at Cliffside, NC – by proving it wasn’t needed. Because it has owned state officials for so long, Duke Energy rarely loses big fights.
He played a key a key role defeating the national nuclear “renaissance” by contesting Duke Energy’s in the Carolinas and by coordinating a southeastern alliance of NC WARN allies and technical experts. That alliance sued over the industry’s rush to start building nukes while ignoring major design flaws. The federal courts sides with the industry, but just as we warned, those design problems would wreck efforts to finish building new nukes – while wasting billions of dollars and precious years that should have gone toward genuine solutions to the accelerating climate crisis.
John Runkle fully knew that legal work and community organizing work hand in glove. He’s been a hammer of a partner and great to work with, helping us all keep cool and having fun even during the most intense times.
We already miss John’s daily presence. But he’s going to remain close to NC WARN, so when you see him at events, thank him for his dedication to environmental justice across North Carolina.