Duke Energy

Op-Ed Pushing Atlantic Coast Pipeline Fails to Disclose Duke Energy Funding

Anti-fracking pipeline protestors dressed like characters from the Wizard of Oz

By Derek Seidman, originally posted at LittleSis.org

The battle over the Atlantic Coast pipeline is heating up in North Carolina, and Duke Energy’s paid agents are out doing the pipeline’s bidding — though most North Carolinians wouldn’t know it by reading the paper.

Congressional Energy and Climate Committees Are Loaded with Ex-Fossil Fuel Lobbyists

U.S. Capitol building

Though the U.S. Congress has been in session for two months, much of the policy action which has taken place since Donald Trump assumed the presidency on January 20 has centered around his Executive Orders.

As some have pointed out, Trump's first speech in front of a joint session of Congress on February 28 can be seen as a reset moment, with the clock ticking on Republicans to deliver on promises made to voters in the 2016 election. In the energy and environment sphere, those efforts will likely center around gutting climate and environmental protections, and much of it will be carried out by congressional committee staffers. 

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that many Republican staff members on key committees are former fossil fuel industry lobbyists, which could help fast-track the industry's legislative agenda in the weeks and months ahead. In total, 15 staffers on the eight main energy and environment congressional committees previously worked as industry lobbyists on behalf of oil, gas, mining, coal, petrochemical, and electric utility interests. 

Trump Team Has Ties to Atlantic Coast Pipeline Now Being Pushed by White House

Donald Trump being sworn in to office surrounded by family and public figures

On January 25, President Donald Trump’s team listed the Atlantic Coast pipeline among the White House’s top priorities for infrastructure projects, an attempt to deliver on his campaign promise to invest in U.S infrastructure programs.

Of the 50 on the list, Atlantic Coast is surprisingly the only pipeline project named. Some had suspected Trump’s infrastructure promise would serve as a massive pipeline giveaway. So, why prioritize this one?

A possible answer: Several members of Trump’s transition team, landing team, and current White House operation have connections to companies behind the project or to firms lobbying for it.  

Duke Energy Touts Solar Grants To North Carolina Schools While Holding Back Solar Industry

Solar panels.

On September 20, Duke Energy announced a $300,000 investment to install solar panel systems at up to 10 North Carolina schools. Numerous media outlets summarized Duke’s press release, hailing the company for its charity to schools and solar education. 

A footnote in the announcement is key: Duke is doing this as part of a $5.4 million settlement in 2015 with the Environmental Protection Agency and several environmental groups over possible Clean Air Act violations. 

The company denied any wrongdoing but settled “solely to avoid the costs and uncertainties of continued litigation.” 

Duke’s press release and much of its coverage failed to disclose two important details: Duke is heavily involved with the two nonprofits in charge of the solar schools project, and the company has been actively restricting the solar industry in North Carolina for years.

Solar Battle Continues In North Carolina As Nonprofit Fights Duke Energy

In one of the remaining four states that explicitly ban third-party solar sales, a small nonprofit is continuing its fight against the nation’s biggest utility over the right to sell solar power to churches and other nonprofits without the utility’s involvement.

North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network (NC WARN), a 28-year-old environmental nonprofit with an annual budget of around $1.1 million, is fighting Duke Energy, a massive energy company that raked in $23.5 billion in revenue in 2015 and is valued at $54.4 billion.

Last year, the nonprofit wanted to clarify state law regarding third-party sales, so it picked a fight with the utility Goliath to spark a test case. NC WARN installed solar panels on the roof of a Greensboro church for free and started selling the energy back to the church at significantly lower rates than Duke Energy would charge. In typical power purchase agreements, customers pay the owner of the solar array less per watt than they’d have to pay a utility company, making residential solar more affordable and thus more accessible for customers.

The energy giant’s lost profits from NC WARN’s arrangement with Faith Community Church are minuscule, yet Duke Energy asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission last October to fine NC WARN up to $1,000 per day for selling energy to the church. At that time, it would have cost the nonprofit as much as $120,000.

On April 15, the utilities commission fined NC WARN $200 per day, amounting to roughly $60,000, and the nonprofit suspended its sales of solar electricity to the non-denominational, largely African-American church pending an appeal.

Confusion and Fear in North Carolina As State Ends Drinking Water Safety Warning

This is a guest post by Rhiannon Fionn,  an independent investigative journalist and filmmaker in post-production on the documentary film “Coal Ash Chronicles.” 

“I’m fighting for my kids and my neighbors,” says a determined Amy Brown.

Brown and hundreds of other North Carolina residents have been using only bottled water for the better part of a year now for cooking, drinking, hygiene and even for their pets. Like Brown, most of those residents live near impoundments of coal ash — the waste product created when coal is burned for electricity.

Now residents are learning that the “do not drink” orders placed on their well water supplies have been lifted by state officials. That decision has provoked fear and confusion among residents and some experts about the safety of their water supply. “This news makes me feel like we’re not getting anywhere,” said Brown, before her voice wavered with emotion.

In April 2015, the state began notifying residents their water wells were contaminated, many with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium and vanadium, which is known to harm kidneys and affect blood pressure.

Residents were issued the “do not drink” notices by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Duke Energy’s coal ash impoundments were suspected as the cause of the contamination and the company was compelled by the state legislature to provide bottled water.

But last Monday, March 7, during a county commission meeting in rural Lee County, state officials announced most of the “do not drink” orders were being withdrawn.

Battle Over Solar Energy’s Future In North Carolina Heats Up As Bipartisan Bills and Civil Protests Mount Against Duke Energy’s Obstructionism

Around the nation, big utility companies are successfully lobbying lawmakers and regulators to restrict individual and corporate access to solar power, denying people significant savings on electricity bills and the opportunity to take part in the growing green energy economy.
 
In third-party solar financing, a non-utility company installs solar panels on a customer’s property at little or no up-front cost, sometimes selling the solar energy back to the customer at rates typically lower than a utility would charge.
 

North Carolina Settles With Duke Energy Over Coal Ash Groundwater Contamination, Ratepayers May Shoulder Costs

Rhiannon Fionn

This is a guest post by Rhiannon Fionn, an independent investigative journalist and filmmaker in post-production on the documentary film “Coal Ash Chronicles.” 

North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality today announced a settlement agreement with Duke Energy, ending a lawsuit over the department’s $25.1 million fine for groundwater contamination resulting from coal ash stored at the company’s Sutton plant near Wilmington, N.C. Although the settlement covers groundwater contamination at 14 of Duke’s coal ash facilities and requires accelerated cleanup of groundwater contamination at four sites, activists and residents I spoke with today were not impressed by the announcement.

Since a judge approved the settlement, there will be no opportunity for public comment.

I am again disappointed with the department, but not terribly surprised,” said Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins. “This is an impressive new low,” he added. “They put a proposed fine out there, but they’ve not only reduced it, they diluted it to 14 sites.”

Coal Ash Coming To Groundwater Supplies Near You! Thank Your Congress

Congress adjourned at the end of this week for their annual August vacation, and as usual, they used this last week of July to push their most extreme anti-environment legislation.

One of the main goals of the industry-funded House of Representatives is to loosen coal ash rules before they go into effect in October, and that’s exactly what the House did last week.

Groups File IRS Complaint Alleging ALEC is a Lobbying Vehicle, Not a Charity

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause have filed an 18-page supplemental complaint to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which calls for a termination of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and requests civil and criminal charges be brought against ALEC.

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