Standing on the lawn of a small church facing Duke Energy’s recently decommissioned Riverbend Coal Power Plant, I reveled in the irony of an intern for North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light finding such a perfect image portrayal to remind me of the side-by-side presence of faith communities and big business in our state.
I travelled to the power plant just outside of Charlotte to attend a press conference for the release of “Closing the Floodgates: How the Coal Industry is Poisoning our Water and How we can Stop it”. This extensive report, written as a collaboration between the Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, Clean Water Action, the Beyond Coal campaign, the Environmental Integrity Project, and EarthJustice, reviewed hundreds of discharge permits for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The conclusions and findings of the study were striking, and reinforce the importance of committing to clean, renewable energy for the sake of the planet.
The two most shocking findings, to me, were that close to 70% of the plants monitored are allowed to dump unlimited amounts of arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury and selenium into public waterways, and that nearly half of the plants studied are operating on an expired permit. The pollutants listed are highly poisonous for human health and aquatic ecosystems.
The report names coal-fired power plants as the number one point source for water pollution in the country and urges the EPA to select its most stringent option for new standards to be applied to the coal industry. Find the EPA’s five options in the “Closing the Floodgates” report, or this one-page summary on proposed legislation from the EPA itself.
NC faith voices must come together to reject coal power plants and continued fossil fuel dependence. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who spoke at the press conference as the president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, reminded us that some of the worst offenders of water pollution are right here in NC. Both the Asheville plant and Riverbend plant are the subject of litigation brought by NC DENR in the past few months.
Facing the coal plant, smoke stacks and power lines looming over the sign of this church, I thought of the position of communities of faith as they face the energy realities of the future. The beauty of faithful commitment to climate work and care for creation, lies in the communities and social movements it fosters. United in interfaith Creation Care work, we stand against climate destroying energy production and for renewable, sustainable energy and lifestyle practices. Reports like “Closing the Floodgates” are a perfect opportunity for the faith community to join with advocacy and activist groups working for the same goals. Let us come together. Let us honor our faithful commitment while honoring the efforts and work of others, recognizing that our efforts are part and parcel with one another.
— Joey Shea, NCIPL Intern
Keep on the lookout for action alerts from NCIPL on writing a public comment for DENR on their settlement with Duke that is unsatisfactory and props up the coal industry in NC.