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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

UPDATED: Protest at Duke Energy stockholder meeting

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2011 at 7:30 PM

click to enlarge From a Duke Energy protest in October 2010. (Photo credit: Heidi Cabiness of 350.org)
  • From a Duke Energy protest in October 2010. (Photo credit: Heidi Cabiness of 350.org)

Here's the press release:

Groups to protest Duke Energy’s stockholder meeting Duke’s risky investments in dirty energy will hurt environment and stockholders

Who: NC WARN, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace USA.

What: Street theater, rally, and press conference preceding Duke’s Stockholder meeting

When: Thursday May 5th.  Rally begins 9am, Press Conference at 9:20

Where: Duke Energy Headquarters, 526 S. Church Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

Why: Citing risky and unnecessary business ventures, NC WARN, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace USA will hold a press conference on Thursday, May 5th to urge Duke stockholders to hold their executives accountable. Duke has announced plans for new nuclear plants in Florida and the Carolinas and continues building coal plants in Indiana and North Carolina which have been met with significant protests over the past few years.

Grant Smith, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, said, "Duke's bid to build more coal and nuclear plants has little to do with clean energy, global warming, or modernizing the electric grid.  Instead, the strategy is clearly to make more money with high cost options that are lucrative to the state-franchised monopoly but harbor the greatest financial risk for captive ratepayers and taxpayers."

Of special note are the four aging Duke-owned coal-fired power plants that affect the quality of life in Charlotte and surrounding counties. These plants cause literally hundreds of deaths, hospitalizations, heart attacks and asthma a year. “We can no longer afford the reckless and environmentally detrimental business plan Duke Energy is pursuing. They are putting the well-being of people, the state economies they operate in, their own company, and individual finances at extreme risk.  Their CEO has ignored calls for change.  Stockholders should now step in.” said Monica Embrey, Greenpeace Charlotte Organizer.

"Duke's Indiana scandal shows that they can't build power plants without billion-dollar cost overruns.  Trying to build nuclear plants could bankrupt Duke Energy, but working people shouldn't be bankrupted too -- through annual rate hikes to fund nuclear projects even Wall Street won't gamble on," said Cynthia Brown, a board member of NC WARN.

Duke has also recently announced a weak policy on Mountain Top Removal, saying that they would avoid Mountain Top removal coal only when it wasn’t more expensive to do so.

“Duke Energy needs to look at the "true" costs of coal. Mountain Top Removal is poisoning the people of Central Appalachia with the carcinogenic, heavy metals this method of coal extraction releases into our water supply. The true cost is the death to our Appalachian Mountains and its ecosystem. The true cost is the cancer death rates of our people.  And if Duke Energy is using Mountain Top Removal coal they truly share in a murderous cost, the genocide of an entire culture,” said Appalachian coal activist and movement leader Mickey McCoy.

Due to scheduling conflicts, and late notice from the protesters, we weren't able to cover this protest. However, other media organizations did. Here's a snippet from the Associated Press and RealClearPolitics.com:

Environment, tea party protests target Duke Energy:

Environmental groups and tea party activists protested Thursday outside Duke Energy Corp.'s annual shareholder meeting in Charlotte, with one side opposed to coal and nuclear power plants and the other upset that Duke's CEO helped bring the 2012 Democratic National Convention to town.

About 50 green activists said they were upset that the utility giant is continuing to build coal-fired plants and moving ahead with new nuclear plans.

Monica Embrey, Greenpeace organizer in Charlotte, said shareholders should step in and say no to the risky projects. The groups say the projects threaten public health and have put shareholders at risk.

Grant Smith, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, said the coal-fired plants are "exposing people to harmful emissions."

The meeting also attracted about 50 tea party members, who say Duke chief executive officer Jim Rogers was wrong to give $10 million to help bring the Democratic National Convention to Charlotte.

Jane Bilelle of the Asheville, N.C., Tea Party said Rogers should be ashamed of himself for giving "shareholders' money to the Democratic Party."

"That's theft of shareholder's money," she said.

Read on for the standard defense line from the company.

SECOND UPDATE:

This afternoon, Molly Dorozenski from Greenpeace got in touch with her protest update:

It was pretty interesting ... a lively tea party counter-protest.  They were, somehow, both protesting Duke Energy (for bringing Democratic convention to Charlotte) while also protesting the "green" protest with pro-coal messaging.

Duke Energy didn't respond to our rally or press conference, but Jim Rogers did take questions inside (and answered all of them.)  He answered a question from Mickey McCoy, Mountaintop removal activist -- I'm paraphrasing here because I wasn't there -- and said that if he were king of the world, he'd stop Mountaintop removal today.  a bit disingenuous based on his recent (weak) MTR policy, which is that Duke won't buy Mountaintop coal unless it's cheaper to buy mountaintop coal.

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