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North Carolina Gubernatorial Candidate Roy Cooper ‘Doesn’t Like’ Fracking and Natural Gas

by Michael Zytkow

November 1, 2016

The Democratic challenger recently broke his silence on North Carolina's growing fracking and natural gas industry, and we got it on video.

The governor’s race in North Carolina is one of the most hotly contested and expensive in the country. Important issues like HB2 (the anti-trans “bathroom bill”), police body cams, and coal ash have put North Carolina in the national and even international spotlight.

The coal ash crisis raised serious questions concerning whether elected officials like Governor Pat McCrory (R), a former 28-year Duke Energy employee and stockholder, are holding North Carolina’s monopoly utility accountable. The public is now more aware that corporations like Duke Energy are not only polluting our water but also our democracy. Duke has consistently supported energy policies that favor toxic fossil fuels over renewable energy and now is no different as it plans to dramatically shift toward natural gas.

McCrory has aggressively promoted the expansion of gas, in line with Duke Energy’s long-term plans. His opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), has been critical of him on the issue of coal ash, but has remained silent on natural gas. There is nothing in his campaign materials or public statements that indicates where he stands on both offshore exploration and drilling and onshore fracking, let alone whether he supports or opposes natural gas.

Greenpeace was not satisfied with this lack of information, so we decided to ask Cooper directly what his stance was on natural gas and fracking. Cooper responded — as document in the video above — with:

“[I] don’t like it. I think we need to be concentrating more on renewable energy. And …we’ve got one of the best solar efforts in the country.”

We appreciate Cooper’s response, especially addressing the need for more renewable energy. We would, however, like to hear specific ways a Cooper administration would favor the expansion of distributed renewable energy options over gas. The public has a right to know where the candidates stand on this important issue.

mccrory-cooper

McCrory’s cozy relationship with Duke is well-documented, but Cooper has actually received more money directly from Duke Energy — including Progress Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas, which have both merged with Duke — over the course of his political career.

(When also considering indirect contributions, McCrory has received more money from Duke Energy. During the recent coal ash crisis, Duke dramatically increased its contributions to groups backing McCrory. Analysis by Democracy North Carolina indicates that Duke’s PAC, its employees, former employees, and their spouses have given a total of $1.1 million to McCrory’s 2008 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns.)

We are asking Cooper to expand his stance and present a comprehensive plan to bring us a clean, renewable energy future, especially at a time when Duke plans to dramatically shift toward natural gas.

Duke Energy’s long-term plan calls for nine new natural gas plants to be built in the Carolinas by 2030, with only 4 percent of the company’s energy coming from renewable sources like solar and wind. Duke recently finalized a $6.7 billion merger with Piedmont Natural Gas, a company that it had already partnered with in an effort to build the $5 billion, 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline to transport gas from the Utica and Marcellus shale basins in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

With the coal ash crisis, North Carolina was forced to confront the health and safety consequences of fossil fuel based energy policies. As Duke Energy attempts to shift the state and nation toward the increased use of gas, the public must seize the moment and embrace renewable energy before we face yet another crisis.

This election day, and every day thereafter, we demand elected officials stand with the people, not polluters.

Michael Zytkow

By Michael Zytkow

Michael Zytkow is a field organizer in North Carolina.

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