44 activists arrested protesting Duke Energy’s climate hypocrisy

by Mike Gaworecki

April 20, 2009

Over 300 activists assembled today to participate in an act of civil disobedience in Charlotte, North Carolina to protest the massive new coal-burning power plant Duke Energy is building at Cliffside. It was the latest and biggest in a string of actions that have been carried out since the Capitol Climate Action in March, which unleashed a wave of grassroots activity aimed at stopping new coal plants from being built and ushering in a new era of clean energy in America.

protesters at Duke Energy 04 20 09After the estimated 300-400 activists rallied in front of Duke’s Charlotte headquarters, 44 were eventually arrested, including Jim Warren of NC Warn; Bo Webb and Mike Roselle from Coal River Mountain in Appalachia; Larry Gibson and Mike McCoy-from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth; and several Rutherford County residents who live near the site where construction of the Cliffside plant is already underway. They are likely to be charged with second-degree trespass.

Duke Energy made an especially good target because the company’s CEO, Jim Rogers, likes to tout his company’s commitment to addressing global warming even while the company is building a coal-fired plant that will keep North Carolina hooked on coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel around, for the next 50 years.

But climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions aren’t even the only reason why we need to transition off of dirty fossil fuels like coal and onto clean energy sources like wind and solar. The coal mining practice known as mountaintop removal, for instance, is incredibly destructive, capable of completely destroying whole eco-systems; mining in general is dangerous for miners and their families; and the burning of coal has several serious impacts on public health.

And of course let’s not forget the little problem of storing all the highly-toxic coal ash that is left over.

There’s also the fact that investing in renewables instead of coal would create more jobs and help revitalize our ailing economy. Read more about today’s action and the environmental, health, and economic costs of coal here.

The demonstration in Charlotte, NC was organized by a coalition of over a dozen environmental, faith-based, and social justice groups, all of whom are calling on Duke Energy and the state of North Carolina to cancel construction of the Cliffside coal power plant. The plant is predicted to cost $2.4 billion and emit an estimated six million tons of carbon dioxide every year for the next 50 years. Similar protests have happened at coal plants in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and other states. Several more are planned for this summer. You can view more pictures here.

The Capitol Climate Action was the catalyst for this new wave of climate activism. We can’t sit around and wait for solutions, we have to go out and make them a reality. And we simply can’t stand for decisionmakers like Jim Rogers delaying action while greenwashing their own activities.

Greenpeace’s field organizer in North Carolina, John Deans, put it best: “It’s absolutely hypocritical for Rogers to talk about sustainability and responsibility when Cliffside locks in dangerous climate pollution for another 50 years. If they really want to protect the planet and create jobs, they’d invest in wind and solar power instead of more polluting energy.”

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