Electrified: Duke Energy is pissing off everyone in Asheville

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Duke Energy isn’t feeling the love from the uber-health-conscious, eco-everything mountain town.

Earlier this month, a study revealed that Duke energy’s coal-fired power plant in Asheville is releasing dangerous levels of pollution in some of the region’s most popular recreation areas. Duke has also been lobbying heavily against a new solar energy bill; Asheville is home to seven solar energy companies and a booming Solarize Asheville movement. And last night, over 100 parents and teachers packed a school cafeteria to voice concerns over Duke’s plans to build a substation right next to a new Asheville elementary school.

Physicians at the school meeting expressed concerns about children’s safety near a high-voltage facility and their long-term exposure to electromagnetic fields, which have been associated with increased risks of leukemia and other cancers. Duke dismisses the concerns as scientifically inconclusive.

Asheville’s outdoor enthusiasts are outraged by pollution plumes from Duke’s coal-fired power plant blanketing popular recreation destinations, including Bent Creek, Pisgah National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. These areas experience sulfur dioxide levels that are dangerous to human health on one of every four days. Duke Energy admits that it could easily reduce its sulfur dioxide pollution levels by using scrubbers already installed at the facility, but it has chosen not to use these emission controls to save money.

And just about everyone in Asheville is unhappy about Duke lobbying against the Energy Freedom Act in North Carolina, which would allow residents to buy clean power directly from a renewable energy company, bypassing their utility. North Carolina is one of only five states that still prohibits residents from purchasing energy from anyone except utilities like Duke.

Duke Energy is generating some seriously bad karma, and all that bad energy could ruin its vibe. Hundreds are expected to attend Duke’s air quality permit hearing next Wednesday, April 29 (6 p.m. at Erwin High School) to demand full use of pollution controls and stronger air quality requirements for the facility. More rallies are planned by Solarize Asheville and environmental groups to overcome Duke’s opposition to the Energy Freedom Act. And the parents, teachers—and even the students—at Isaac Dickson Elementary are mobilizing to stop the Duke substation planned beside their school.

Duke may be a mighty energy utility, but people power can still bring the juice.

In Asheville’s already charged atmosphere, Duke has a choice to make: it can fight dirty, or it can play nice: it can use the pollution controls on its smokestacks, support renewable energy, and find a safer site for its substation.

 

 

 

 

 

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