As a Christian, I believe that creation is a gift intended to sustain life. The earth has an intricately balanced system that relies on clean air, clean water and fertile land to nourish and sustain plant and animal life of all kinds, including our own.
Along with a growing number of people of faith and conscience, I am concerned that the energy sector is putting this sacred balance at risk by continuing to rely on burning fossil fuels that pollute our air, water and climate. And I believe Gov. Pat McCrory must lead the effort to do something to change that.
Last year a Duke Energy coal ash storage pond broke and spilled up to 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River, contaminating some 70 miles of downstream water.
But that’s not all. The citizen’s group, Asheville Beyond Coal, recently released a report stating that once every 3-4 days for the past several years, air pollution from sulfur dioxide at Duke’s Asheville plant is 3 to 3.5 times higher than what our Environmental Protection Agency has said is safe for public health. This poses another potentially serious health risk to the citizens of Western North Carolina from burning coal.
There are limits to the amount of pollution that our planet can process through its own natural systems. These systems are under threat everywhere, and the changes to our climate are happening now. Floods and fires, huge storms and wild fluctuations in temperatures are now common across the United States, including here in WNC.
Power plants in the U.S., like Duke’s Asheville plant, produce 38 percent of the carbon pollution that is principally responsible for the disruption to our climate that we are all witnessing.
The EPA recognizes that the energy sector is the largest contributor of carbon dioxide. Last year, the EPA released the first carbon pollution protections to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. This summer, the protections will be finalized to reduce pollution from power plants and address the skyrocketing carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to climate change.
The EPA will allow individual states flexibility to develop plans to reduce carbon emissions from power plants like Duke Energy’s Asheville plant. McCrory must lead the effort to develop and implement a strong clean power plan for our state, and include community groups in the process. We deserve a plan that will protect the health of the residents and the environment of North Carolina and limit the devastating effects of climate change that we are already experiencing.
God’s creation is too great, too wonderful and too precious to do anything less.
Jane Laping, M.S., M.P.H., is interim coordinator of the Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina.