North Carolina Governor Urged to Appoint Utility Commissioners That Will Promote Clean Energy, Protect Public Health
A coalition of 14 environmental justice groups today called on North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to appoint members to the North Carolina Utilities Commission that do not have ties to the fossil fuel industry and will protect public health and promote clean energy.
Today’s letter from the groups, which form the Energy Justice NC Coalition, was hand-delivered in a meeting at the governor’s office. It urged Cooper to select three new commission members who will move the state’s fossil fuel-dominated electricity system to clean energy. The new commissioners, the letters says, shouldn’t have ties to polluters and should help fight climate change and ensure economic and environmental justice for all North Carolinians.
The Energy Justice NC Coalition formed to bring an end to the Duke Energy monopoly because the electric utility continues to burn dirty energy, build new dirty energy plants and hinder the widespread adoption of clean energy — all actions that work against the public interest.
“Because Duke Energy is a monopoly energy provider in North Carolina, it is vital that we hold it accountable,” said Catherine Trusky, a fellow at the Alliance for Climate Education. “If we want a green future — a just future where all have access to safe environmental conditions — we cannot remain stuck in the status quo. We must appoint utilities commissioners who will stand up for a sustainable North Carolina when making decisions that will affect our energy sector and climate for years to come.”
In the letter, the groups outlined six recommended characteristics for the governor to use in selecting commissioners:
- Proven commitment to protecting and promoting North Carolinians’ interests;
- Legal and technical expertise;
- Experience in holistic risk evaluation;
- Medical or public health expertise;
- Strong public values and independent thinkers; and
- No conflicts of interest with fossil fuel money.
“Governor Cooper should appoint three new commissioners who have the ability to make decisions that are fair and the courage to hold the utilities accountable,” said Richard Fireman, co-founder of Alliance for Energy Democracy. “They should ensure economic and environmental justice for all.”
The utility commission is responsible for regulating rates and services of investor-owned utilities that provide electricity, natural gas and water in North Carolina. The commission is required to provide fair regulation within the public’s interest, promote least-cost energy planning, provide just and reasonable rates and promote conservation of energy and the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The letter states, “Now more than ever, we are in a moment that requires swift and bold action. It is critical that we have regulators and decision-makers who are informed of the latest climate science, as well as knowledgeable about innovative solutions. The decisions and action taken now and in the coming years will surely have repercussions for decades to come.”
Local groups from communities heavily affected by pollution and the harms of the existing utility system are joined in the coalition by state and national organizations focusing on climate and environmental justice.
“North Carolinians need energy commissioners who will fight for communities, not corporations,” said Jean Su, energy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The climate crisis demands we ditch fossil fuels as fast as possible, but polluting monopoly utilities in North Carolina are stopping the clean energy transition in its tracks. It’s time for the utility commission to break the dirty energy stranglehold in the state and regulate in the public interest.”
The Energy Justice NC Coalition:
Alliance for Climate Education
Alliance for Energy Democracy
Center for Biological Diversity
Concerned Citizens of Maxton
Down East Coal Ash Coalition
Friends of the Earth
RedTailed Hawk Collective
NC Climate Justice Collective
NC Environmental Justice Network
Protecting Progress in Durham
Rachel Carson Council