Written by: Omar Kashef, Housing Specialist Intern with CEF-Chapel Hill
On June 2, 2014 CEF Advocates showed up in full force at Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh for Moral Monday focused on Environmental and Health Justice. Moral Monday, organized by the NC NAACP, is a large coalition movement of organizations, nonprofits, and North Carolinians that are discontent with the repressive policies enacted by NC’s largely conservative General Assembly. NC’s Governor Pat McCrory, his administration, and much of the General Assembly have worked tirelessly to silence Moral Monday protesters by recently enacting various laws with vague definitions of “imminent disturbance.” This gag order allows police to arrest those singing or chanting that would interfere with “normal conversation levels” in the legislative building. However, these laws have not perturbed many CEF Advocates from attending the Moral Monday protests through a shortened legislative session.
One running hashtag that popped up amongst many of our signs is #GTHDE, or Go To Hell Duke Energy. Governor McCrory worked for Duke Energy for over 25 years and has been under scrutiny regarding his lenient attitude towards a coal ash spill from a Duke Energy plant. Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal and is often dumped into specific sites. There are over 30 of these sites in NC. The Duke Energy pipe running underneath the Dan River ruptured on February 2nd, leading to the third largest coal ash spill in U.S. history. However, a recent bill that is being pushed through by the NC Senate would require Duke Energy to remove all of their coal ash dumping sites by 2029. The costs associated with removing the coal ash ponds cannot be transferred to consumers via increased rates. Duke Energy is allowed to petition for rate increases if deemed necessary after a moratorium on rate increases is ceased in 2015. Considering that households making less than $50,000 spend 21 percent of their income on energy bills as opposed to households making more than $50,000 spending only 9 percent of households, rate increases disproportionally affect lower income communities. The bill running through the NC Senate will hopefully ensure that costs related to removing coal ash dumps are not passed on to Duke Energy’s customers!
Perfectly stated by D.J. Gerken, lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center, “Duke [Energy] has profited from doing the cheapest thing for decades, and it’s now time for them to pay the bill.” Until these spills, Duke Energy would have continued to pollute NC neighborhoods via potential groundwater contamination from these coal ash dump sites. Moreover, these dump sites tend to be located near low income neighborhoods with many being neighborhoods with predominantly Black and other minority members. While the NC Senate is headed in the right direction, Duke Energy may continue to try and wiggle their way out of these demands. So for the meantime…#GTHDE!
—————————————————– Hall, Mike. Hey, North Carolina, Our Freedoms Were Built Through ‘Imminent Disturbance’ (2014)  WUNC. The Latest News on The Coal Ash Spill in Eden, NC (2013)  WUNC. State Senate Files Coal Ash Regulation Bill (2014)  Southern Studies. Institute Index: A call for racial justice in energy policy (2013)  Murawski, John. Duke Energy’s $1 billion cleanup: Who would pay?  Wireback, Taft. Coal ash could leak from landfills, environmentalists warn (2014)