A set of train tracks in rural North Carolina is not the kind of place that brings iPads to mind.
But this railroad is part of the chain that links you and me – and anyone who uses the cloud – to the massive destruction caused by the coal industry. That’s why we’ve chosen this spot, outside Duke Energy’s Marshall coal-fired power plant, which is just 19 miles away from Apple's iCloud data center, to send a message to both Apple and Duke that the energy revolution can’t wait.
Activists from communities impacted by coal pollution and mountaintop removal mining have locked themselves to the tracks, preventing coal from entering the facility. We won’t leave until Duke agrees to end its use of mountaintop removal coal.
So what does Apple have to do with all this? Well, while Apple has made some beginning steps toward renewable energy, their North Carolina data center still uses a lot of power that they buy from Duke Energy.
Duke Energy paints itself as a progressive utility company, but the reality is starkly different. They operate 20 coal-fired power plants around the country, many of them in North Carolina. All told, the air pollution from these plants contributes to more than 15,000 asthma attacks and nearly a thousand premature deaths every year. The company also owns some of the most toxic and hazardous coal ash dumps in the nation, threatening the water supplies of surrounding communities.
Perhaps worst of all, though, many of Duke Energy’s plants burn coal mined by the devastating practice of mountaintop removal, whereby whole mountaintops are dynamited and the debris is scraped into adjacent valleys. Thus far, more than 500 mountains in Appalachia have been blown up, burying more than 2000 miles of headwater streams. The practice has annihilated entire towns and displaced many people, poisoning the water and air for those who can’t or don’t want to move.
None of this destruction is necessary—Duke has the power to stop using mountaintop removal coal today, and to get on a path to delivering renewable energy like wind and solar to North Carolina. They won’t do it on their own. But if huge customers like Apple demand that Duke supply them with clean energy instead of dirty coal, you can bet they’ll pay attention.
And that could mean real change for communities who have to deal every day with the impacts of a coal-fuelled cloud. Join the activists on the train tracks by telling Apple we want an iCloud powered by clean energy, not mountaintop removal coal.