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Opponents of Mountaintop Removal are “On the Right Side of This Issue” Says Duke Energy CEO

Friday, May 8th, 2009

While several dozen people were outside Duke Energy headquarters protesting CEO Jim Rogers’ decision to construct new coal-fired power plants in North Carolina and Indiana, Scott Gollwitzer, Appalachian Voices’ In-house Counsel, was inside asking questions at the annual shareholders’ meeting.

When it was his turn, Gollwitzer briefly described the devastating social and environmental impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining for Rogers and the shareholders. He then outlined Duke’s justification for burning it in North Carolina:

(1) Duke’s power plants are designed to burn a percentage of Central Appalachian coal;

(2) approximately fifty percent of Duke’s coal is extracted by mountaintop removal;

(3) Duke uses mountaintop removal coal to maximize profits because it is “allegedly” less expensive than other Central Appalachian coal; and

(4) mountaintop removal coal is regulated by state and federal agencies.

Then Gollwitzer mused, “I think everyone in this room would agree that just because something is legal, say slavery, doesn’t make it moral. I ask you then—and this is a yes or no question—just because mountaintop removal is legal, is it moral to burn it to maximize profits when alternative sources of Central Appalachian coal are available at comparable prices?”

Rogers answered that “Duke will be looking to move away from mountaintop removal coal mining as its existing coal purchasing contracts expire.” He also expects “increased regulation of mountaintop removal from Washington, D.C.”

“So it’s neither moral or immoral?” pressed Gollwitzer. “It was a yes or no question.”

“For us it’s a little bit of a balancing act, but I think you’re on the right side of this issue,” replied Rogers. “It’s not sustainable.”

“Jim Rogers has all but admitted that burning mountaintop removal coal is immoral. This is a huge step in ending the destruction of the people, communities and ecosystems of central Appalachia,” said Gollwitzer. “Honestly, I was flummoxed by his candor because Duke has been working to scuttle state legislation that would prohibit the purchase of mountaintop removal coal.”

The Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act introduced by NC state representative Pricey Harrison, would prohibit North Carolina’s investor-owned utilities from burning mountaintop removal coal. While the bill prohibits these utilities from entering into new contracts to purchase coal from mountaintop removal operations, it does not interfere with existing contracts.

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