Front Porch Blog

Duke Energy: Stop the Spin Cycle

Sara Behnke loves her home, Mountain Island Lake. But about 10 miles northwest of Charlotte, N.C., the lake, which supplies drinking water to more than 800,000 residents of the Charlotte metro area, is threatened by two coal ash ponds at Duke Energy’s recently shuttered Riverbend plant.

We’re happy to share a recent post by Sara from the blog of We Love Mountain Island Lake, a local group working to protect the lake from coal pollution. Live in the Charlotte area? Like We Love Mountain Island Lake’s Facebook page.

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“Never fall for someone who says the right things. Fall for someone who does the right things.” I read that quote this morning on Facebook right after I read this article in The Charlotte Observer: “NC SUES 12 DUKE ENERGY PLANTS.” The line that really hit me in the gut was Erin Culbert, the Duke Energy spokesperson, saying, “State regulators are requesting more data to ensure waters of the state are well protected.” REALLY? Can she really believe her own statement? And do they really think we are dumb enough to buy that?

I’ve never, ever heard a lawsuit referred to as a “request for more data.” I couldn’t help but wonder if Duke Energy put half as much effort into DOING the right thing as they do in trying to SAY the right things, where we might be today. Maybe instead of 3.2 million cubic yards of coal ash sitting on the shores of our drinking water, it would be safely contained in dry, lined storage offsite. Instead, Duke Energy invested their time and money in PR spin about how the coal ash ponds at Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake are not polluting our drinking water — all while a host of scientists from Duke University, the Catawba Riverkeeper, American Rivers, The Waterkeeper Alliance, Appalachian Voices, and even a 6th grader with an arsenic testing kit keep finding contamination.

I try to teach my children that it’s better to admit mistakes and focus your energy on making things right rather than denying you did anything wrong. I wish Duke Energy could learn that simple lesson. It’s sad to think about the time they’ve wasted denying and defending, rather than doing the right thing and cleaning up their mess here on Mountain Island Lake. In the face of test after test result they deny, deny, deny. When scientists from the Catawba Riverkeeper and the state found toxic leaks in the base of the earthen berms, Duke said those leaks were normal and besides, it’s just a little bit of poison so we shouldn’t worry. (By the way, that’s why scientists measure those levels in parts per billion — a little bit does matter.)

Do they really think their “Deny and Defend and Hope it Goes Away” strategy is smart business? Do they really think this helps their reputation as a corporate neighbor? They can give away all the free life vests in the world but that won’t clean up our drinking water. I’m tired of hearing their PR machine. And I’m tired of waiting. I recently heard a very wise woman say, “It’s more important to DO right than to BE right. Duke Energy: It’s time to DO RIGHT.

With Colombian roots, a Philadelphia, Pa.-childhood, and more than a decade in Florida before joining Appalachian Voices, Sandra served as AV's North Carolina campaign coordinator and driving force behind the Red, White & Water campaign from 2007 to 2013.


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