Monday, November 16, 2009

Protests before Duke Energy CEO offered two awards

Posted By on Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 6:19 PM

click to enlarge Coal Protest Courthouse

About a dozen protesters hung out in front of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse this afternoon, some in costume. There were the usual picket signs, then there was the depiction of a coal industry executive forcing a blindfolded Justice to her knees. (Photos below.)

Originally, the group — which includes members of several environmental organizations — planned to protest during the trial of Ken Davies. He's a local attorney who was arrested during the April protest at Duke Energy headquarters in Uptown, along with roughly 40 of his fellow protesters. (See photos from that protest here.)

The crime? They became trespassers when they voluntarily crossed a pink line spray-painted on the sidewalk. Of the 40 arrested in April, 30 have already paid their debt to society — either through community service or by paying court costs. The final 10? Their charges were dropped last week.

Davies attempted to subpoena Jim Rogers, the company's CEO, to testify at his trial. He hoped Rogers would show and defend the company's Cliffside Steam Station (a coal plant), located about 50 miles from Uptown Charlotte.

Bruce Lillie, a supervisor in the D.A.'s office, says — despite appearances — the court's decision to drop their charges against Davies, and nine others, was coincidental and doesn't have anything to do with Davies' attempt to subpoena Rogers. More, Lillie says, he wasn't aware Rogers was being honored tonight by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.

"Our feeling was we had convicted a lot of people already involved with this case," said Lillie. Plus, he added, he heard that the protesters who didn't plead guilty planned to use their court time to draw attention to their cause -- and, he said, that isn't a good use of the court's time.

"From a practical standpoint," he said, "the court doesn't have the resources to turn a trespassing case into a 2-3 day trial."

When Davies' trespassing charge was dropped, plans for the protest got confused said Brian Seaton, one of the protests organizers. He expects a bigger crowd of protesters to show up tonight, at the Convention Center. The protest will begin at 5:30 and the group plans to hold their own award ceremony at 6:30.

Tonight, while Rogers is inside accepting the 2009 Citizen of the Carolinas Award, the protesters plan to honor him as Hypocrite of the Year.

They say he's a "greenwasher" because he says he's in favor of promoting alternative energy production while constructing a new coal fired plant.

"Among the things that are harmful to our planet," said Donna Lisenby, of Appalachian Voices and the Upper Watauga Riverkeeper, "coal-fired plants are among the worst things."

Duke Energy representative, Tom Williams, isn't bothered by the protests. Instead, he says, "We admire the people who are protesting. We admire their passion and enthusiasm."

He says his boss, Jim Rogers, has already testified under oath about Cliffside — to the North Carolina Utilities Commission and didn't have anything to do with the protesters' trespassing cases.

So far, all efforts by environmentalists to halt construction at Cliffside have failed.

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