N.C. climate-change activists have friends in high places

Local grassroots organizations such as the Canary Coalition and Mountain Voices Alliance aren’t the only ones to express concern about Cliffside, a Duke Energy coal-fired power plant proposed for Rutherford County.

James Hansen
, a top climate expert and head of NASA’s Goddard Institute, is well known for speaking out on the perils of climate change — despite past White House efforts to keep him quiet. Hansen has weighed in on the Cliffside issue as a private citizen, not in his official capacity, by submitting a letter to state regulators. “It has become clear that in order to avoid creating a different planet with disastrous consequences for humanity and other species, over the next few decades we will need to ‘bulldoze’ old-style power plants that do not capture and store CO2,” he wrote.

In November, Hansen will travel to North Carolina to deliver two forums entitled “Averting Climate Catastrophe: Power Plants or Clean Energy –— Who Decides?”

His leading recommendation is a moratorium on coal-fired power plants, such as the unit proposed at Cliffside.

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers has garnered quite a bit of media attention for his stance on climate change. Far from denying it as an issue, he has come forward with a vision for reinventing the utility industry and transforming the United States into the most energy-efficient economy in the world. Duke Energy recently partnered with seven other utilities to invest $1.5 billion over 10 years in energy-efficiency programs. “Our engineers would wake up every day thinking about how to squeeze more productivity from technology,” Rogers was quoted as saying, “Rather than having to focus on building more power plants.”

But green CEO or not, pressing forward with Cliffside means Rogers still has a potential public outcry on his hands.

A public hearing about Cliffside’s Title V Division of Air Quality Permit will be held in Asheville on Thursday, Oct. 18, at A-B Tech’s Simpson Auditorium, from 6 to 10 p.m. It will be conducted like an official public hearing, with three minutes allotted to each speaker, but the meeting was orchestrated by grassroots environmental organizations, not the DAQ. (The DAQ held a public hearing in remote Forest City, which is closer to the location of the plant, but declined citizens’ requests to hold others.)

Hansen’s forums, “Averting Climate Catastrophe: Power Plants or Clean Energy – Who Decides?” will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16, at Queens University of Charlotte, and at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. Admission is free but early reservation of seats is recommended.

— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor

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