Local community members, including organizers with Greenpeace and the Hip Hop Caucus, introduced a new "People, Not Polluters" platform at First Ward Park this morning in an attempt to shed light on dirty money in politics, especially in regards to the relationship between Duke Energy and North Carolina's state leaders.
This morning's press conference came as members of Gov. Pat McCrory's administration began testifying under oath in Raleigh in regards to recently unsealed depositions from state toxicologist Kenneth Rudo. In his deposition, Rudo claimed he was pressured in a meeting with state officials to play down the health risks of Duke Energy coal ash ponds for those living near by.
“The state health director’s job is to protect public health, and in this specific instance, the opposite occurred,” Rudo said in the deposition. “We knowingly told people that their water was safe when we knew it wasn’t.”
This morning, Hanna Mitchell with Greenpeace called on McCrory and Roy Cooper, McCrory's gubernatorial opponent in this year's race, to make promises to protect people by closing up coal ash ponds across the state, support distributed renewable energy policies, halt the expansion of natural gas and fracking and defend voting rights for everyone.
"As long as Duke Energy keeps burning coal and keeps storing this toxic sludge in unlined dumps next to our waterways, we're going to keep dealing with the toxic legacy of coal ash pollution," Hanna Mitchell with Greenpeace said this morning. "Duke's dumps are like ticking time bombs and we all know that we live downstream from coal ash. We're all waiting for the next spill or breach. That's why we're here today, to call for a government that will protect people and not polluters."
Nakisa Glover, an organizer with the Hip Hop Caucus, also spoke this morning, stating that while her organization is in the midst of its "Respect My Vote" campaign, its members do stand by the "People, Not Polluters" platform.
"We should also understand that since 2014, and I'm sure it's been going since before 2014, there's been an all-out attack on the environment of North Carolina, and by environment I mean the land, the air, the water and the people," Glover said. "We've seen [neighbors of coal ash ponds] living on bottled water … also we've seen the permitting of fracking, we've seen offshore drilling being explored in North Carolina and we've seen the blocking of energy access for all ... There's something wrong with that if we have a government that's based on the polluters' system."
Organizers unveiled a chalkboard they will bring around the state to let community members express their wishes regarding where Duke Energy should spend their money — as opposed to putting it toward government campaigns — and ways in which the next governor should listen to their constituents as opposed to Duke lobbyists. Contributions from Duke to the campaigns of McCrory and Cooper surpass $70,000, along with contributions to organizations like the Republican Governor's Association, which in turn contributes money to GOP candidates like McCrory.
After today, the tour will continue across North Carolina, with stops in Raleigh, Greensboro, Wintson-Salem and Asheville.