Nation's Largest Utility Wants Customers to Pay for Coal Ash Cleanup
The Associated Press reports that this is the first time the $59 billion electricity company has sought permission to have North Carolina consumers pay part of its costs of disposing the waste, a toxic byproduct of burning coal for power.
Duke Energy Progress, a Duke subsidiary that serves parts of North Carolina, filed for a rate increase with the North Carolina Utilities Commission on June 1. If approved, its 1.3 million customers would see their electricity bills increase about 15 percent.
The rate hike would generate an extra $477 million in annual revenue for the company. Duke said the money would be used to upgrade the state's electric system and repair damage from major storms, like Hurricane Matthew.
Controversially, a $66 million slice of that revenue would recoup costs already spent on coal ash cleanup, and $129 million more will go towards future cleanups.
Coal ash has been a contentious issue ever since Duke's 39,000-ton ash spill into North Carolina's Dan River in 2014. While none of the money from the proposed rate hikes will be used for that specific accident, Duke has also been ordered to close dozens of its coal ash storage basins in the Carolinas—an effort that's expected to cost about $5.1 billion.
Many are opposed to allowing the company to recover costs from the closing of old ash ponds.
"The 15 percent rate hike is an outrageous cost increase to ask consumers to pay when they have no ability to chose another energy provider," Donna Lisenby, clean andsafe energy campaign manager for Waterkeeper Alliance said. "Working families struggling to make ends meet should not be forced to pay for Duke Energy's negligent management of leaking coal ash ponds.
"They want to pass their mistakes on to the land owner. This is not fair," Nancy Gurley, who lives near the utility's plant in Goldsboro, wrote in a comment filed with the state.
Coal ash contains a mix of arsenic, lead, mercury and other potentially toxic elements. Concerns have also arisen over the harmful chemicals leaching into groundwater through the unlined bottoms of pits. Duke denies its basins contaminate groundwater.
Charles Walker Jr., who lives near the company's Allen power plant in western North Carolina, told the AP that he has been forced to use bottled water after the chemicals showed up in his neighborhood in Belmont. He said Duke should bear the brunt of the cleanup costs, not the customers.
"In my opinion, if you're going to be negligent, if you made a mistake, you need to feel the sting. Don't just pass it on," Walker said. "If a septic company comes to my house and accidentally spills sewage all over my property, are they going to send me the bill for that?"
The company told the AP that the expense of cleaning up coal ash is part of the cost of generating electricity. Company spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said the company generates about 150 pounds of coal ash a year for each household on average.
By Jacob Wallace
This story is published as part of StudentNation's "Vision 2020: Election Stories From the Next Generation" reports from young journalists that center the concerns of diverse young voters. In this project, working with Dr. Sherri Williams, we recruited young journalists from different backgrounds to develop story ideas and reporting about their peers' concerns ahead of the most important election of our lives. We'll continue publishing two stories each week over the course of September.
In the speech she gave at the People's Climate March in Washington in 2017, Jansikwe Medina-Tayac, then 15, told a crowd of thousands, "This [climate change] is not just an environmental issue. This is a race issue, this is an immigration issue, this is a feminist issue."
- Youth Activists Urge Presidential Candidates to Address Climate ... ›
- Young Republican Climate Activists Split Over November's Election ... ›
- Activists Launch Youth 'Power Vote' Campaign to Turn Out Climate ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The United States passed 200,000 deaths due to COVID-19 Tuesday and experts warn that number may double before the end of the year as an autumn surge in cases starts, according to USA Today.
- Thom Yorke of Radiohead Releases Song With Greenpeace to Help ... ›
- Patti Smith, Thom Yorke, Flea and More Featured on Just Released ... ›
- Musicians and Activists Unite at 'Pathway to Paris' - EcoWatch ›
A national park in Thailand has come up with an innovative way to make sure guests clean up their own trash: mail it back to them.
- Supermarkets in Thailand and Vietnam Swap Plastic Packaging for ... ›
- Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It ... ›
- Thailand Begins the New Year With Plastic Bag Ban - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Worsens Thailand's Plastic Waste Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Marium, Thailand's Beloved Baby Dugong, Is the Latest Victim of ... ›
By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
- 7 Republicans Joined Senate Democrats in Vote to Fight Climate ... ›
- Climate Change Acknowledged by Increasing Number of ... ›
- Want the Youth Vote? Prioritize Climate Change - EcoWatch ›