News and Action
May 18, 2001
as full-scale construction gets underway.
Canary Coalition Director Intervenes
as full-scale construction gets underway
Since January 20 of this year a growing number of people have been participating in the Boycott to Stop Cliffside (and all new coal and nuclear power plants) by turning off all house lights for 15 minutes at 9pm every Sunday night. This action is currently being co-promoted by eighteen environmental and community organizations throughout North Carolina.
The Cliffside project is an expansion of Duke Energy's coal-burning power plant in Rutherford County, NC, that, if completed, will annually produce more than six million tons of carbon dioxide, doubling its current greenhouse gas production, as it continues to add sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and dozens of other toxic chemicals into the already unhealthy air of the Appalachian region. Cliffside will also, on a daily basis, use millions of gallons of precious fresh water for cooling purposes. North Carolina could easily avoid burning more coal through policies that promote reductions in energy consumption while developing the state's abundant renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, ocean tidal and waves.
Aside from the weekly Boycott there are other efforts being made to stop the construction at Cliffside on the legislative, legal and regulatory levels, all worthwhile and necessary. But, it's unlikely that any of these efforts can succeed without the involvement of thousands of people, the creation of a visible and potent groundswell of grassroots support and the political pressure that will create. That's why the Sunday Boycott to Stop Cliffside is so important. By involving thousands of people, the Boycott is changing the political landscape in North Carolina, creating an atmosphere of peaceful, but determined rebellion against "business as usual" energy policy at a time when the international scientific community is warning us that we have little time to transform ourselves if we intend to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
While a fifteen minute boycott of electricity by a given household will not bankrupt Duke or Progress Energy, when multiplied by thousands it will have an impact not only on the power grid, but on those who have become involved and are participating. By taking this simple and easy first step of turning off a switch on the wall, and making the conscious decision to participate in the Sunday Boycott, you have decided to join in solidarity with those who are being pro-active in addressing climate change and air pollution. You are standing up to the corporate interests who put profit above public health, the environment and our children's future. You are reminding the power companies, elected officials and yourself that ultimately the power is in YOUR hands to reduce energy consumption and to determine future energy policy. The power industry can mis-represent future options, buy off legislators and regulators and threaten to build new polluting coal and nuclear power plants with ratepayer money. But, here's a fact that seems to have been forgotten in this controversy: WE, THE RATEPAYERS, DON'T HAVE TO BUY IT!
Yes, electric ratepayers are consumers buying a product from the producer, in this case the utility industry. Ultimately it is our choice and within our power to buy or not to buy this product from this producer. This is a very real power. We may choose to turn off our power for 15 minutes this Sunday. But, if Duke Energy remains obstinate, continuing construction on Cliffside, we could increase the Boycott to a half-hour, an hour or more. Or we can all begin thinking about more profound ways of avoiding their product.
Duke and Progress Energy are used to being monopolies with the arrogance of knowing that their customers lack alternatives. Electrical consumers have become resigned to this status as well. We all need electricity and they're the only suppliers in town, right? Well that's not exactly true anymore. Independent solar and wind energy systems are beginning to become more affordable and available. There are companies offering to install solar electric systems on a lease-contract basis that guarantee monthly bills comparable to current utility bills. There are groups organizing community owned wind farms such as Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy (AIRE) in Watauga County. Also, we have the availability of more efficient home lighting and appliances in which to invest. If consumers begin to heavily invest in efficiency and independent renewable energy systems, Duke and Progress revenues will decrease and they will not have the capital to spend on new power plants. We, as consumers, have this ultimate power.
Also, on another level, we have to re-define the term "need." For most of us electricity is actually an important convenience, but not, in the most strict sense a need. Water, clean air, food and shelter are needs. We cannot survive without these elements of life. But, unless your life depends on an electrically powered medical device, electricity is not a need. The importance of this fine point is that in past successful social movements, masses of people were willing to make great sacrifices in the realm of convenience for the purpose of overcoming powerful oppressive government and/or corporate policies. For instance, in the early 1960's Rosa Parks' courageous action triggered a public bus boycott in Birmingham, Alabama in which thousands of people walked miles to work and school each day, refusing to subsidize a system that treated African-Americans unfairly. Building new coal and nuclear power plants at this late date is threatening our children's future. Isn't this an equally compelling cause, for which it is worthy of sacrificing some convenience and enduring a certain amount of hardship? Through the Sunday Boycott we can show Duke and Progress Energy that their monopoly and their product does not control our lives. We are in charge of our own lives. RATEPAYERS HAVE POWER!
In order to exercise this power consumers have to cooperate in an organized manner, collectively and synergistically. Our ability to organize into a cohesive political and economic force will define our success in overcoming the power and influence of the utility industry in their endeavor to build more polluting power plants while promoting greater energy use so they can make higher profits. The Boycott to Stop Cliffside is the way we can organize and work together to create that political and economic force. If you want to stop Cliffside, participate in the Boycott, get others involved and make it grow. This will breathe new life into the ongoing legislative, regulatory and legal challenges already underway. Create, begin and be the groundswell that can't be ignored. Flex your ratepayer muscle.
For more information about other ongoing activities to stop Cliffside visit, http://www.stopcliffside.org
investigate taser use against Cliffside demonstrators
On April 1st, eight people performed non-violent civil disobedience at Cliffside with the intention of getting arrested to make a public statement. They chained themselves to bulldozers in a symbolic act to stop construction on Duke Energy's planned new coal-burning power plant in Rutherford County, NC. The police in Rutherford County reacted brutally, using tazer guns, without provocation, against two of the demonstrators. There was no threat of violence against the police according to witnesses. There was no resistance to arrest. The police broke the law and abused their power during this incident. Yet there has been no investigation of their conduct and there has been no attempt to enforce the law by prosecuting the illegal use of force and for the violation of the demonstrators' civil rights.
Because this sets a dangerous precedent of police conduct against civil disobedience, the Canary Coalition has called on North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper to conduct an investigation and to prosecute the Rutherford County police*. To support this demand contact the Attorney General's Office:
NC Office of the Attorney General
North Carolina Department of Justice
Telephone: (919) 716-6400
Fax: (919) 716-6750
*In a follow up, the Attorney General's office notified the Canary Coalition that neither the AG nor the SBI have the authority to investigate local police unless the local District Attorney, the Sheriff Dept. or a local judge makes a request for them to do so. To back up this assertion, the AG's office sent us the statutes that define the powers of the Attorney General. We are in the process of reviewing these statutes.
In the meantime, we have sent letters to DA Greenway, who has jurisdiction in Rutherford County, as well as to District Court Judges Davis, Pool and Powell requesting they ask the Attorney General to get involved. We have not made a similar request of the Rutherford Sheriff's Department, for obvious reasons.
For the past three years the Canary Coalition has been lobbying for a mandated utility rate restructuring, as part of the Energy Future Resolution, to provide a powerful economic incentive for electric ratepayers to invest in efficiency, conservation and independent renewable energy systems. An inverted rate structure would reward conservation while penalizing wastefulness as price per kilowatt would rise with greater consumption.
In the 2007 legislative session the North Carolina General Assembly passed Senate Bill 3, a backwards law opposed by the environmental community as it ended a twenty-five year ban on charging electric rate-payers for construction-work-in-progress on new polluting coal and nuclear power plants.
But, in an effort to gain legislative, media and public support, the promoters of Senate Bill 3 included several token pro-environmental elements including a minimal (and unenforceable) Renewable Portfolio Standard and a directive to the Utilities Commission to study whether or not it would be worthwhile to restructure utility rates.
As a result, the Utilities Commission has begun proceedings to examine the merits of rate-restructuring. Avram Friedman, the Canary Coalition's Executive Director, has been accepted as an intervenor in this process. His report to the Commission, can be viewed at http://www.canarycoalition.org/canary/raterest.doc
Canary Coalition on Wind Energy and Public Transportation
The Mountain Landscape Initiative is a series of charrettes being conducted throughout western North Carolina to create a "toolbox" of model ordinances and policies that can be adopted on the county level to manage issues resulting from rapid population growth common to many areas within this region. Participants include local government officials, the Department of Transportation, non-profit organizations, developers, businesses and interested individuals.
On May 14 and 15 the Canary Coalition tabled at the forum held at Western Carolina University, in Cullowhee, and participated in the charrettes focusing on energy infrastructure and transportation.
The Canary Coalition and Appalachian Institute of Renewable Energy have been working together to develop a model wind energy citing ordinance that was offered and placed in the toolbox. The Canary Coalition also offered its proposal for a statewide public transportation system and called for local governments in western North Carolina to help advocate for such a system.
We all have the right to breathe clean air and The Relay for Clean Air is the annual civil rights march staged by the Canary Coalition to focus national attention on poor air quality in the greater Appalachian Region. The Relay flag is passed from one segment to the next over the 100 mile course that stretches from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the Blue Ridge Parkway to downtown Asheville, NC. There are segments of the Relay designed for bicycle riders, runners and for walkers. The Relay is not a race, but rather a cooperative demonstration of determination by its participants.
Sign up by contacting the Canary Coalition office, firstname.lastname@example.org
There are nine members of the Canary Coalition Board of Directors. Board members serve two-year terms. Four and five members are elected on alternating years. This year there are five seats up for election. If you are interested in serving on the Board or wish to nominate someone else, please contact our office to have names placed on the ballot which will be mailed to all members by the end of May. email@example.com or 828-631-3447.
If you have not already done so, please renew your annual membership with the Canary Coalition and help keep the database updated with your most recent contact information. There is no mandatory annual membership fee, although all donations are gratefully accepted (and very much needed). Average individual member donations are about $35. Businesses about $100.
All new and renewing members receive the interactive membership computer CD. The membership CD is a powerful tool that aids its owner in being a clean-air activist. It contains a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation about air quality issues and the Canary Coalition that can be shown to friends, groups, classrooms, etc. Also on the membership CD is a library of documents containing information about important air quality issues. There are also graphics for iron-on applications, printable membership forms and a link to the Canary Coalition website.
We will also include a bumper sticker for any renewal or new membership that includes a donation.
Send updated contact information and donations to:
The Canary Coalition
PO Box 653
Sylva, NC 28779
|home| about us | press releases | newsletters | links | contact us|