Advocates to Duke Energy: No Rate Hikes for Dirty Fuels

{posted on: May 2, 2013}

Teach-In Outside Annual Shareholder Meeting Highlights Community Concerns

CHARLOTTE – Ratepayers and concerned North and South Carolinians gathered outside Duke Energy’s annual shareholder meeting here today to bring the voices of those impacted by the company’s rate hikes and dirty energy facilities to the meeting. Duke Energy, now the largest utility in the nation, seeks to raise electricity prices for millions of customers across North and South Carolina to pay for extending the use of obsolete and dirty power plants that threaten the health of people, the environment, and the economy.

Advocates are calling on Duke Energy and state policymakers in the Carolinas to more fully embrace clean energy production which would create additional permanent high-tech and manufacturing jobs while promoting clean air and clean water.

Members and supporters of AARP, Greenpeace, NC WARN, the Sierra Club, and others presented a 9’ x 16’ display wall with hundreds of photos taken by Duke Energy customers to demonstrate their opposition to rate hikes for dirty fuels.

“Duke’s investors should know that ratepayers will not be satisfied until the company embraces a clean energy future that will protect our climate, our pocketbooks, and our health,” said Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford.

Clean energy is growing rapidly across the United States and is replacing older coal-fired power plants. North Carolina is a regional clean energy leader in solar power, with more than one thousand companies and thousands of people employed in the solar energy industry. North Carolina also leads the Atlantic Coast with the greatest potential for offshore wind energy, yet Duke Energy is blocking the development of solar and wind in the Carolinas, instead generating the vast majority of its electricity from dirty fuels like coal, nuclear, and natural gas with no plan to change. In the Carolinas, Duke’s energy mix will include only 2.5 % wind and solar energy 20 years from now if the company sticks to its current business plan.

“Sierra Club members and supporters ask Duke Energy to support North Carolina’s clean energy economy by phasing out its remaining coal-fired power plants, like the Asheville Coal Plant, and replacing them with home-grown clean energy that builds our economy, cleans our air, and protects our most vulnerable citizens,” said Kelly Martin, campaign representative with Sierra Club.

North Carolina is a leader in the nation for the number of high hazard coal ash lagoons, many of which are operated by Duke Energy. Reports of toxic and cancer causing agents linking into drinking water sources from impoundment dams are becoming commonplace.

Sara Behnke, founder of We Love Mountain Island Lake, attended the shareholder meeting to question Duke Energy executives about coal ash contamination near its Gaston County coal-fired power plants in North Carolina.

“Realizing that I was living beside an active Duke Energy coal ash pond that is leaking toxins into our drinking water was a wake-up call for me,” Behnke stated. “My daughter Anna and I are speaking here today to let Duke know that we want a clean energy future and that we want them to accept responsibility for polluting our community and communities across their service areas.”

Seniors and others on fixed incomes, small business owners, and municipal governments are being squeezed as Duke Energy shifts costs from large commercial and industrial customers to those that can least afford it. Unfair and regressive rate schedules that penalize energy efficiency and conservation and double-digit, serial rate hike requests have become a business model that will cost new jobs.

Members from AARP in North and South Carolina were there to express their concerns over how residential increases impact fixed-income seniors. “Duke should not be trying to get more from Carolina consumers to make up for setbacks in other states. Shutting down a nuclear plant in Florida, cost overruns at a coal gasification plant in Indiana, and a recent rate case settlement in Ohio may have Duke management looking for revenues elsewhere. Don’t look here, consumers in the Carolinas are tapped out,” said AARP North Carolina Director Doug Dickerson.

One highlight of the half-day rally is a “State of the States” report by ratepayers from Duke Energy’s six service areas, Teach-ins on various forms of energy and fuel sources, and workshops on how to organize the growing movement around financial, environmental and social justice issues.

“It’s exciting to see people connecting the dots between climate change and the need to speak out about serial rate hikes for dirty energy. Having such a large diverse group of concerned ratepayers come together is truly inspiring.” said Connie Leeper, outreach organizer with NC WARN.

Participating organizations include AARP, Consumers Against Rate Hikes, Greenpeace, NC WARN, and the Sierra Club.

Bill Gupton, (704) 367-0068,
Monica Embrey, (773) 419-0963,
Jenna Garland, (404) 281-6398,