Protesters were a fixture outside the recent climate change summit in Paris, calling on world leaders to agree on a plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. On Wednesday, local activists staged a rally of their own, supporting a new federal plan addressing climate change - and opposing North Carolina’s response.
In August, President Barack Obama announced a plan to cut power plant emissions and promote a shift to cleaner energy sources. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan sets lower standards for carbon pollution, but lets states decide how they’ll comply.
Gov. Pat McCrory and the state Department of Environmental Quality responded by joining 23 other states, including South Carolina, in a lawsuit to halt the federal rules. The McCrory Administration doesn’t believe the EPA has authority to require states to draft plans for expanding clean energy, such as solar and wind.
Still, the state has drafted rules for one part of the mandate - for reducing emissions at existing coal-fired power plants.
Critics say the plan falls well short of the EPA requirements. So before a public hearing on the plan Wednesday at the Government Center in Charlotte, about 100 activists rallied at nearby Marshall Park.
T.C. Muhammad of the Hip Hop Caucus, an activist group that also joined the Paris protests, led a chant, yelling “Don’t Stop,” to which protesters responded, “Won’t Stop.”
Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, a spokesman for the Sierra Club’s North Carolina Chapter, also drew a connection between the local protest and Paris.
“The Paris accord is a fantastic backdrop for this,” he said. “And what you saw was a signal that the world community is ready to start addressing climate change. We need to reduce carbon emissions. This is an opportunity for North Carolina to show that it’s committed to that as well.”
Some are unhappy that the state is putting off work on plans to boost solar and wind energy. And they object to spending taxpayer dollars to fight the rule in court.
Joel Olsen of solar power developer O2 EMC says he doesn’t understand why the state sued, since it’s already a leader in solar power. “I think we could save the taxpayers a lot of money, create a lot of new jobs, and attract a lot of private investment to the state, if we would just move forward, business as usual, because we are going to way over comply before 2030. I think we should join forces to try to make it better,” Olsen said.
At the hearing, Steve Cupulski, chair of the Sierra Club’s North Carolina Chapter, said many large tech companies have located in NC because of the availability of solar power. By not doing its own renewable energy plan, the state could lose ground to nearby states.
“Why is our governor afraid to let North Carolina be competitive? Why is he against a clean power plan that will significantly reduce carbon emissions?” he asked.
Calvin Cupini of Charlotte described himself as a “representative of Millennials.” He argued that the state has a head-start on renewable energy, even before the EPA rules.
“I say we follow the simpler plan, and merely beef up our progress already. That being said, I’d like to quote something I found in uptown Charlotte on a sculpture, that is … “We did not inherit this land from our ancestros, we borrow it from our children.”
That drew some of the loudest applause of the evening.
Two more hearings are planned - one tonight (Thursday) in Raleigh and another January 5 in Wilmington. A 60-day comment period on the plan ends January 15. State officials expect to submit a final plan by the EPA’s September 6 deadline. RELATED LINK Find the state Department of Environmental Quality draft plan at http://www.ncair.org/rules/draft/