North Carolina Student Climate Coalition Convinces State to Revisit Permit on New Coal Plant!

Due to the amazing work of students and organizers, The North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ) is revisiting the permitting process for Duke Energy’s proposed Cliffside coal facility.

Last Thursday, students from North Carolina spearheaded a national call-in day to the offices of Governor Mike Easley and Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers to stop Duke Energy from constructing a new 800 mega-watt coal-fired power plant in Cliffside, NC. Their efforts garnered over 500 calls to the governor’s office and similar numbers to the Jim Rogers’ direct line at Duke Energy. On the same day, two other students from North Carolina dressed as polar bears were arrested while blockading the entrance to Duke Energy’s headquarters in Charlotte.

Students at UNC-Asheville tabling for phone callsOver the weekend, the momentum continued to build. Dr. James Hansen of NASA spoke to a crowd of over 700, including Jim Rogers, in uptown Charlotte Friday evening and to a jam-packed auditorium in Chapel Hill on Saturday afternoon.

“The physics of the problem tells us that we cannot put the carbon from all that coal into the atmosphere,” he said. “It just hasn’t sunk into policy makers.” Hansen also wrote N.C. air-quality officials in opposing the Cliffside expansion earlier this fall.
As a result of the momentum created by the call-ins, the direct action, and the Hansen events, the North Carolina DAQ is re-evaluating the Cliffside permit, paying particular attention to the issue of mercury pollution. Coal plants emit 40 percent of the mercury released in the U.S. Mercury is of highest concern because of the known effects the neurotoxin has on women of childbearing age and children. Highly toxic mercury has tainted fish across Eastern North Carolina and already threatens to permanently impair thousands of babies each year. North Carolina advises pregnant women and children under 15 to moderate the number of freshwater fish species caught anywhere east of Interstate 85 (Eastern North Carolina waters more readily form methyl mercury than other waters) and largemouth bass caught anywhere in the state.
Students arrested during direct action outside Duke Energy HQ
The existing facility at Cliffside released 140 pounds of mercury in 2005, according to state records. Duke’s own numbers project a 10-fold increase in mercury emissions from the proposed plant over 2005 mercury emissions from the existing units, as well as 13 to 50-fold increases in releases of other toxic metals like arsenic and cadmium. For more information on the toxic pollutants associated with Cliffside, visit Clean Water for North Carolina).

This re-evaluation is a huge step and marks a victory for the newly formed North Carolina Student Climate Coalition. With only a few months under it’s belt as a coalition, these North Carolina students join the ranks of others around the country forming state and regional networks to fight climate change.

The momentum the NCSCC and other state coalitions have created in such a short time is really phenomenal. Way to go ya’ll!

8 Responses to “North Carolina Student Climate Coalition Convinces State to Revisit Permit on New Coal Plant!”

  1. 1 Jesse Prentice-Dunn Nov 20th, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Yeah North Carolinians! Awesome work.

  2. 2 Juliana Nov 20th, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Awesome work guys!! I’m so excited that all that effort is paying off. Way to go to the Warren Wilson crew too!

  3. 3 Matt Leonard Nov 20th, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    This is a great example of how effective our movements can be embracing a diversity of tactics. From direct action, to rallies, to petitions, to attending permit hearings, to scientists speaking in public forums – all these tactics played crucial parts in this decision!

    Hats off to Warren-Wilson folks for putting your bodies on the line!


  4. 4 jessejenkins Nov 20th, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    Congratulations! That’s an awesome step forward. Keep the pressure on until the regulators throw out the plans entirely.

    Is DAQ willing to take the plunge and actually look at CO2 as a pollutant – as they did in Kansas?

    The tides are turning in our fight against new coal plants, and what once seemed (not too long ago really) like an unstoppable wave of 150+ new coal plants is beginning to be fought back, and the plans for new carbon, mercury and smog-belching, mountain-top eating coal plants are dropping like flies these days!

    But the fight’s certainly not yet over. Keep at it friends. In solidarity,


  5. 5 Melissa Nov 21st, 2007 at 4:26 pm


    . Another major producer of mercury emissions is chlorine plants. Chlorine plants have been using mercury in their production for well over 100 years in the United States. Much of this mercury escapes through “fugitive emissions” – and then on top of that, many chlorine plants have unaccounted for mercury losses that make their way into the environment.
    However, there is a solution. Newer membrane cell technology eliminates the need for mercury use in chlorine plants. Already 90% of the industry uses this technology, and there are ongoing campaigns to make chlorine production completely mercury-free. To learn more about this campaign check out the
    Oceana website.

  6. 6 Kevin Nov 22nd, 2007 at 4:23 am

    Don’t forget the efforts of Appalachian Voices and Appalachian State University to diligently make phone calls and get citizens interested in submitting comments/attending public hearings to prevent the plant! A lot of people are contributors, and I want to thank them all for their hard work. The jobs not done yet though! Keep it up!

  7. 7 Sarah Murphy Nov 22nd, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Check out what Nina, Meg and I have to say about the action last Thursday at Duke Headquarters on EarthBeat Radio ( the broadcast should be up early next week and you can listen to it online next Tuesday at 10am on (
    Thank you to everyone for your continuing hard work, love and support,

  8. 8 Nina Otter Nov 25th, 2007 at 10:56 am

    On Thursday November 15th students all over the nation joined in solidarity with North Carolinians to stop new coal at Cliffside. Thank you everyone who took action. We made it clear to Duke Energy that the folks of North Carolina are not going to support a company and government whose practices destroy the earth and its communities. The extraction and burning of coal needs to stop immediately.

    Jim Hansen, (of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) says we have ten years for CO2 emissions to peak and decline before complete climate destabilization. This urgency poses an exciting opportunity to solve a global emergency. It is so important right now to fight for what we believe in. We can reconnect to the people and land that we belong to by uniting ourselves to create a just and sustainable future.

    It is empowering to stand up to officials and show them that coal is not an option if we want to solve the climate crisis. More empowering is to stand up to officials and show them that there are renewable alternatives to the coal empire. Alternatives such as energy efficiency that, as Jim Hansen recently stated, will off-set the need to expand unit 6 of the Cliffside facility.

    Thank you Jim Rogers for acknowledging our platform, however, please put yourself in the shoes of the younger generations who will have to deal with the devastation of climate change. Coal might seem like the cheapest option but if one looks deeper, the coal industry is costing Southern Appalachians their health and wellbeing, the integrity of the mountains, water and air quality and a sustainable economy. I can think about what it might be like run a large powerful company such as Duke Energy. But how could I make a decision between profits and green jobs. A clean energy economy will not only restore balance to the ecosystem, but will also provide pathways out of poverty.

    Community-based food, energy, decision-making systems are part of a healthy, life-promoting way of being. Lets live that, lets think logically and act with our hearts. It’s a growing revolution that vital to human survival on this planet.

    Nina Otter

    Swanannoa, NC, November 18th 2007

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About Janie

Janie is a 2007 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is now working with Southern Energy Network and Students United for a Responsible Global Environment (SURGE) as the North Carolina Campus Coordinator

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