Today, a group of Charlotte area activists delivered a big, fake $10 billion check to North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis Cornelius campaign office. The mock check was compensation for Speaker Tillis efforts to weaken the recent North Carolina coal ash bill and was signed by Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good. Speaker Tillis has long been a powerful ally to Duke Energy.
Speaker Tillis responded by closing his campaign office. The door was locked and the blinds were drawn. It appears that the Speaker and his staff are unwilling to speak with concerned community members about their concerns of his too cozy relationship with corporate interests like Duke Energy.
That hasn't stopped Greenpeace and other environmental groups who have long been critical of the NC coal ash bill because it lets Duke Energy off the hook for comprehensive cleanup and costs. While the Senates version of the bill was weak, under Speaker Tillis leadership in the House it became even weaker. The bill would not require Duke to clean up 10 locations where coal ash is stored across the state, and instead allows the ash to be left in place in the current leaking pits, keeping our water and health at risk. Covering up ash dumps is not cleanup.
The $10 billion of clean up costs (according to Dukes own estimates) could be passed along to Duke Energy ratepayers instead of being covered by Duke Energy executives or shareholder profits according to the coal ash legislation. The big check represented the amount of money that North Carolina legislators would be saving Duke Energy and instead putting on the backs of everyday people.
Instead of buying off North Carolina politicians, Duke Energy should take full responsibility for its coal ash crisis by removing ash at all 14 locations and covering all costs associated with the comprehensive clean up. All North Carolina communities deserve to have this toxic threat removed completely from nearby water supplies.
Monica Embrey is a former Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She led Greenpeace’s national campaign on Duke Energy, the largest utility in the country, to promote affordable renewable energy in the Southeast.