In the past few months, for better or for worse, the climate crisis has come to the forefront of the conversation. The Senate recently passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which could potentially have major impacts on national policy and funding around climate resiliency. Additionally, the West Virginia v EPA United State Supreme Court decision was released just last month, stripping away needed regulations to limit pollution and protect public health.
There is also a particular environmental policy discussion closer to home that could significantly affect our ability to regulate pollution. Here in North Carolina, we are in the midst of yet another momentous decision on climate: the N.C. carbon plan. Last year, North Carolina passed a historic piece of legislation that seeks to respond to climate change by reducing carbon emissions. This energy bill, known as HB 951, calls for carbon emissions to be reduced by seventy percent by 2030, and to net zero emissions by 2050.
Duke Energy, the energy provider for our state, has been given free rein by the utility commission to write the first iteration of potential plans. In preparation for creating the final version of the carbon plan, four public hearings have been held to gather community testimony and opinion. During these meetings, the commission overwhelmingly received public testimony in favor of a more robust carbon plan. Several environmental nonprofits–including members of our very own Eco-Justice Connection (EJC) program–were present to give testimony.
Although many have spoken out at the hearings, there is still more public outreach work and engagement that needs to be done. This is one of many reasons why the North Carolina Council of Churches has become an official intervener in this planning process. Through our collective voice, we aim to have the utility commission incorporate community input with low-income ratepayers, focus on investments in renewables and energy security, and decrease energy burden. As a commitment to community engagement, our staff has been present during each hearing to listen to the voices of North Carolinians. Environmental organizations across the state not only participated in the hearings but have been driven to action. Right before the last in-person hearing in Charlotte, our EJC staff worked in collaboration with other nonprofits to organize a rally, where Ren Martin spoke during the press conference. Multiple environmental organizations have also come together to form collaboratives intended to provide the public with information on the carbon plan, and why Duke Energy’s plan is lacking.
In short, we are at a pivotal moment in history. If the utility commission were to create an ambitious carbon plan, North Carolina could be at the forefront of clean energy in the United States and set a standard that other states could follow. However, Duke Energy’s proposed plans leave much to be desired. Their plan contains no mention of environmental justice nor the real costs that climate change has had on our most vulnerable community members. This cannot stand. Corporations who benefit from the current status quo must not be allowed to control the narrative around climate progress, for the consequences of our inaction grow larger day by day. As the deadlines for major environmental decisions loom before us, we must come together as people of faith to lift up the voices of those most impacted by the climate crisis.
Come this December, the utility commission is expected to vote on a finalized version of the carbon plan. There are still actions you can take to have your voice heard! Although the in-person hearings are over, on August 23rd there will be two virtual hearings. If you wish to testify, you should register before 5 p.m. on August 16, by emailing the Commission at email@example.com or by calling 919-733-0837. Learn more about how to attend this hearing by clicking here. If you cannot attend the hearing or you wish to participate in another way, written comments can also be submitted at the NCUC website.
If you would like to advocate and learn more about the Carbon Plan, check out the resources below: