N&O interview cites dozens of scientists calling for Cooper to halt the climate-wrecking expansion; his bid for national office will require strong climate action
We commend Raleigh’s News & Observer for putting Gov. Roy Cooper on record about Duke Energy’s huge and continuing expansion of fracked gas-fired power generation, apparently in response to an interview question about dozens of scientists calling for Cooper to halt that expansion.
“We know that natural gas pricing is volatile,” Cooper told reporter Adam Wagner, “we know that the natural gas supply for our state is questionable, so building these new gas plants could end up costing consumers a lot more at the end of the day because of the volatility and because the technology is going to be moving so rapidly to support these renewables.”
After long criticizing the Governor for promoting his climate concerns while remaining silent about the disastrous methane gas buildout, NC WARN is pleased to commend him for noting the economic risks of relying on more gas as renewable technologies keep proving superior.
Now, we again call on Gov. Cooper to heed the science by using his authority – for example, under the NC Emergency Management Act – to stop Duke’s climate-wrecking gas expansion. He used that very authority to alter business activity during the Covid pandemic. Since 2020, over 80 nonprofits and thousands of state residents have urged him to declare a climate emergency instead of waiting for even more climate emergencies that are destined to occur.
Thousands of eastern NC families – largely people of color or lower incomes – remain out of their homes years after hurricanes Matthew and Florence due to the state’s failure to utilize millions in federal dollars to remedy this horrible injustice.
The N&O has reported that Gov. Cooper is on a short list of possible presidential candidates. If true, he will need to square his climate talk with his actions. Under his watch, Duke Energy has continued expanding gas-fired electricity generation and plans to double its gas capacity by building dozens of new units in coming years. The NC Utilities Commission did nothing to slow that plan (see p. 71, Table E-71) in its contentious carbon plan order on December 30.
There are many ways a strong governor can change a corporate polluter. A next step: Gov. Cooper should begin making his position and the climate-gas connection clear to the public – particularly those communities already being harmed by climate disasters and serial rate hikes, both of which are worsened by Duke Energy executives’ reckless gas expansion.
He can join Attorney General Josh Stein and the dozens of environmental, social justice and business organizations that pressed the utilities commission throughout 2022 to stop Duke’s gas expansion via the carbon plan proceeding.
He can heed Drew Shindell, a globally prominent climate scientist at Duke University, who for three years has urged Cooper to lead a national move against new gas infrastructure. In November, Dr. Shindell sent an appeal to NC Governor Roy Cooper from 45 scientists urging him to act, explaining that methane gas is a key driver of the climate crisis and curbing its emissions is crucial for humanity to have “a fighting chance” to prevent irreversible chaos.
The N&O interview stemmed from a new state climate report that included a reference urging “North Carolina policymakers to ‘prioritize solutions’ for powerful but shorter-lasting greenhouse gases like methane and hydrofluorocarbons,” as the N&O reported.
Cooper also told reporter Adam Wagner, “North Carolina has become a leader in clean energy and the fight against climate change.” That clashes with the scientists’ warning that Duke Energy’s gas expansion could overmatch all the state’s positive efforts.
Nevertheless, NC WARN hopes to add many more appreciations for the Governor going forward. Meanwhile, we’ll keep urging him to use his high office and personal relationship with Duke Energy executives to finally align North Carolina’s climate and economic future with science and clean energy economics.
Duke Energy execs face numerous and growing headwinds in their unprecedented expansion of fossil fuels at a time of dire climate urgency. Gov. Roy Cooper could truly distinguish himself across the state and nation by persuading or requiring Duke Energy to change course.