They need to remember all the opportunities they had, back in the days before Republicans took over the General Assembly and the Governor's mansion, to take steps to ensure disasters like this recent coal ash spill wouldn't take place. But it was more than just missed opportunities to do what's right. Democrats were so concerned with keeping their campaign contributions from the hometicks and utilities they refused to acknowledge something was a hazard until it resulted in actual damage. As a Party, we can never let that happen again.
I'm not trying to deflect attention away from Skvarla, McCrory, and all the other jackasses in NC's current government who seem hell-bent on destroying our environment. But I'm also not going to ignore the corporate toadyism and half-measures that elected Democrats engaged in before the GOP stumbled into the picture. And for those who are memory-deficient, we're going to take a few trips in the way-back machine to jog said memory:
Duke Energy is continuing their efforts to expand its Cliffside coal plant in Rutherford County, North Carolina. The NC Utilities Commission has given them a permit for one 800 megawatt pulverized coal generator. This facility will emit millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air annually, along with adding mercury and other deadly pollutants into the atmosphere.
The new generator will create more global warming pollution while worsening our already poor air quality. The deadline for giving public comments to the NC Department of Air Quality has already passed, but that doesn't mean that NC is locked into a future of dirty energy.
Join us in solidarity, from wherever you are, as we flood the Governor's office and the Duke Energy Headquarters in Charlotte with calls, emails and faxes. Urge Governor Michael Easley and Duke CEO Jim Rogers to stop Duke Energy from expanding Cliffside. Demand investment energy conservation and efficiency programs to offset the power this plant would provide, save us money and create jobs. Insist that Duke fund clean, renewable energy for future expansions.
Over a 2 year period of time, we shook the rafters of a Democratic-controlled state government, and not a damn thing was done to arrest this unnecessary and dirty project. Aside from a few (mostly ignored) voices from the Environmental Caucus, Democrats were silent.
They were also mostly silent when they inserted this jewel into our REPS bill:
S. 3, Promote Renewable Energy/Baseload Financing, by Sen. Charlie Albertson was one of two companion bills introduced this session to require the state to acquire a portion of its energy from efficiency and alternative sources. The Senate version of the bill, however, became a vehicle for several changes to current regulation sought by the utilities that could encourage the building of new coal and nuclear plants, contrary to the purpose of establishing a renewable energy portfolio standard.
Most controversial is a provision that reverses a decades-old policy of not allowing utilities to recover costs for new nuclear facilities until they are producing energy. The ban against “construction work in progress” (CWIP) was put into place after consumers bore the costs of abandoned plants in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
“The incentive provided by CWIP for continuing the prevailing orthodoxy is a powerful one,” said Len Griffiths, a member of the Chapter’s steering committee.
Most of the recent massive rate increase requests by Duke Energy were CWIP-related, and they're still pursuing multi-billion-dollar nuke and coal projects here and elsewhere.
Make no mistake, there is a clear difference between what Democrats did vs what Republicans are doing now. The Clean Smokestacks Act, while watered down substantially, has vastly improved air quality by reducing particulates.
But here's the deal: the technology available today could reduce those particulates even more, for a fraction of the costs that utilities whined about back when this law was enacted. But instead of working towards new and more relevant statutes and guidelines to continue the clean-up of our air, NC's elected Democrats kept pointing back to 2001 as if to say, "That problem's been solved already."
Well guess what? It hasn't, it's only been mitigated some. There's a big difference between those two things, and until rank and file Democrats understand the environment must be constantly safeguarded, the value of your future majority control of the NCGA is still in question.