Groups target Duke Energy to end monopoly control of NC electric system

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Raleigh N.C. – A new, diverse coalition of 15 local, state and national groups today launched what they called a vigorous statewide campaign to end Duke Energy’s monopoly control of North Carolina’s energy markets and public officials, saying the corporation is harming communities, gouging consumers and making climate change worse. It’s a rare citizen-led effort organized to break up the monopoly control of a U.S. corporate utility.

The campaign, called Energy Justice NC: End the Duke Monopoly, promotes common sense energy policies that shift the state to a more affordable, safer and secure electric system. The coalition says those policies create local jobs and community wealth, market competition and consumer choice.

The Energy Justice NC coalition is anchored by leaders from communities suffering the impacts of Duke’s corporate portfolio of toxic coal ash pollution, the proposed fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline, hog waste biogas, and worsening hurricanes caused in part by Duke’s ongoing burning of coal and fracked natural gas.

In addition, the coalition says, all state residents are burdened by Duke’s blocking of competition from cheaper renewable energy companies, constant electric bill increases from Duke’s expanding use of fracked gas, and the utility’s $13 billion scheme for unnecessary transmission “improvements” – all of which cause power bills to soar year after year. Charlotte-based Duke Energy is the largest U.S. power provider, and generates 90 percent of the electricity used in North Carolina.

“Our communities are being harmed both by Duke Energy’s coal ash negligence and by repeated flooding from our changing climate,” said Bobby Jones of the Down East Coal Ash Coalition, speaking at a press conference today at the First Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh. “Duke’s influence is a moral decay that erodes our democracy – and we’re calling for people across North Carolina to tell their public officials to stop taking Duke Energy’s toxic influence money,” he said.

After the event, Jones and other coalition members walked to the state capitol to deliver a letter to Governor Roy Cooper and legislative leaders Phil Berger and Tim Moore calling on them to personally agree to stop taking political influence money from Duke and from Dominion Energy. Stopping state and local officials, along with civic leaders, from taking electric monopoly money is one of the campaign’s three key goals.

The Energy Justice NC coalition is also launching a statewide petition drive – housed on its new website for individuals, organizations and businesses. The petition calls on Gov. Cooper and legislators to begin an open process for revamping the state’s electricity system – thus forcing Duke Energy to stop thwarting growth of solar, wind and energy storage companies. The coalition is pursing legislation to open the state to electricity competition.

Donna Chavis, of Robeson County’s RedTailed Hawk Collective and Friends of the Earth, said today: “Our communities are being devastated by repeated flooding – and ironically Duke Energy’s executives are targeting us with the ACP fracked gas pipeline, which would make climate change even worse. We don’t need that gas, and this coalition is pressing to open North Carolina to competition from cheaper, renewable energy.”

The third prong of the campaign is to press for appointments to the NC Utilities Commission who will stand up to Duke Energy and prioritize the public interest and the state’s natural beauty.

“We must create a Utilities Commission that puts the future of our residents above the stock prices of Duke Energy,” said Amy Adams of Appalachian Voices today. “We must demand freedom from the relentless rate hikes that hurt our low income and fixed income neighbors … and freedom from decisions based on profits.”

The coalition says polls show widespread voter support – across the political spectrum – for energy choice, renewable power and fair decision-making, and that they intend to turn that support into action. For many years, Duke Energy has been among the state’s largest political contributors.

Local groups from communities heavily impacted by pollution and hurricanes are joined in the coalition by state and national organizations focusing on climate and environmental justice. The coalition says Duke is making climate change worse through its huge expansion of fracked gas even as cheaper, clean power and energy storage are rapidly changing competitive market places.

“Duke’s energy monopoly, where dirty power is king, needs to end,” said Jean Su, energy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The climate crisis demands we ditch fossil fuels as fast as possible, but Duke’s stranglehold on North Carolina is stopping the clean energy transition in its tracks. It’s time to break Duke’s monopoly and its dirty addiction to fracked gas, starting from the ground up.”

Contacts:
Jim Warren, NC WARN, jim@ncwarn.org 919-416-5077
Karen Bearden 350 Triangle, chickadeebirders@gmail.com 919-844-9050
Emily Wurth, Food & Water Watch, ewurth@fwwatch.org 202-412-1505
Cat McCue, Appalachian Voices, cat@appvoices.org, 434-293-6373

Source: Appalachian Voices

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