Photo from the Charlotte Observer
At Duke Energy’s annual shareholder meeting, the company announced first quarter profits up 15%-- profits that don’t reflect the hidden costs of dirty energy: the subsidies, healthcare costs and environmental costs that are passed on to the American public. Profits that Duke built on environmentally destructive practices and at the cost of human lives.
The meeting was marked by significant environmental protests as Duke announced plans for new nuclear plants in Florida and the Carolinas and coal plants in Indiana and North Carolina—in fact, the meeting came on the heels of controversial announcements about the potential merger of Duke Energy and Progress energy, and a weak policy on Mountaintop Coal.
The green coalition press conference and rally, MC’d by Greenpeace’s Charlotte organizer, Monica Embrey, took place on the doorstep of Duke Energy’s annual Shareholders’ Meeting. Speakers from NC WARN and other groups emphasized the risky nature of investing in dirty energy. About fifty environmental demonstrators came out from across the state to express concern about Duke's merger with Progress Energy, which would make it an even more formidable force for dirty energy interests.
The press conference and rally was countered by a tea party protest. Arriving in buses, the Duke/Tea Party protestors simultaneously called for Duke to withdraw a recent 12 million dollar investment in the 2012 DNC while they chanted “ We need coal.” Tea party protestors were simultaneously criticizing Duke spending shareholder money to bring the Democratic convention to Charlotte – while still somehow engaging in pro-coal bullying and interrupting the press conference by shouting “We need coal.” In fact, Duke gave them permission to be there to get out the pro-coal message.
Mickey McCoy, a prominent MTR activist from Kentucky, came to North Carolina to question Duke Energy’s policy on Mountaintop Coal. Inside the meeting, McCoy said to Jim Rogers that the policy makes Duke "an accomplice to the genocide of my world,” and cited the high cancer rates in his community. While Rogers said that McCoy had “an ally” on the issue, it sounded a bit disingenuous. After all, the current Duke Energy policy says that they’ll buy non-mountaintop coal only when it doesn’t cost more.
The Duke Energy and Progress Energy merger threatens to make Duke the largest energy company in the U.S., environmental opposition grows in response. Replacing coal with clean energy will be an uphill fight in North Carolina—but a fight we’re prepared to have. As opposition to Duke and Progress Energy grows, North Carolina’s people are standing up for the health and safety of our communities.