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North Carolina “Carbon Plan” Fails to Address State’s Pressing Environmental, Economic Concerns

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Climate Justice Air Climate Energy Environmental Justice North Carolina

New paper shows an alternative promoting renewables and racial justice would meet North Carolinians’ needs more effectively than current corporate proposal

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A decarbonization plan developed by Duke Energy, a private monopoly utility in North Carolina, would not be able to meet the state’s legally required carbon emissions goals, according to a new policy brief by the Center for Progressive Reform. Regulators at the North Carolina Utilities Commission asked the company to devise such a plan for them after the passage of legislation that committed the state to reducing carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Duke Energy’s initial plan bewilderingly proposed caps on renewable sources like solar and wind. A newer plan still calls for the construction of new methane-fired power plants, a source of climate pollution and hazardous emissions, in already marginalized communities.

The brief, Missing the Mark: How North Carolina’s Decarbonization Efforts Fall Short and How to Fix Them, also describes the state’s past and present crises of environmental racism and explains why Duke Energy’s plan would not address climate and health disparities compounded by racial and economic inequities.

“Racially segregated, low-wealth, and rural communities face alarmingly higher levels of pollution, particularly air pollution,” said Sophie Loeb, a policy analyst at the Center and one of the brief’s authors. “In some parts of the state, the respiratory risk for Black North Carolinians is twice the risk for white people in that same region. Duke Energy’s plan to build more methane power plants will just make the problem worse.”

Loeb co-authored the policy brief with Ajulo Othow and Sidney Shapiro. The authors make the case that an alternative model centered on genuine public participation would be notably superior to the version Duke Energy produced for the utilities commission, largely behind closed doors.

“It’s frustrating that a single private entity can dictate policy impacting all of us,” said Othow, a board member at the Center and founder and CEO of EnerWealth Solutions, a solar and energy storage company in North Carolina. “The state must center community feedback, and it must put structures in place to ensure it’s not just paying lip service to ‘engagement’ — there needs to be real accountability at the state level to listen to what communities have been saying, consistently and clearly.”

“In an era of hybrid work and education, we can certainly have hybrid public hearings,” added Shapiro, the Fletcher Chair of Administrative Law at Wake Forest University and board member at the Center. “The state government has no excuse when it fails to make this process as accessible as possible. To pretend otherwise is the equivalent of state regulators stopping up their own ears.”

To that end, the brief recommends that North Carolina make meaningful commitments not only to soliciting community feedback, but to adopting what citizens propose in hearings. The authors emphasize that the state must commit to holding multiple in-person and virtual hearings at different times of the day and days of the week, to ensure that public participation is at its highest.

The authors also call for a prohibition on the construction of new methane power plants and for the state to invest instead in renewable energy to meet its energy needs. This has been done successfully in other states like California and Hawaii.

“Climate change is as much a local problem as it is a global problem,” said Susannah Tuttle, the Eco-Justice Connection Director at NC Interfaith Power & Light and North Carolina Campaign for Energy Justice project partner. “We have a duty to meet the demands of the Paris Agreement, but we also have a duty to stop harming people in our own state. Empowering them, instead of bowing to corporate actors, is the only way to do that.”

The full policy brief is available at

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The Center for Progressive Reform harnesses the power of law and public policy to create a responsive government, a healthy environment, and a just society. Read CPRBlog, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, and subscribe to our email list.

Climate Justice Air Climate Energy Environmental Justice North Carolina