A Duke University climate scientist and 27 former federal environmental officials are calling on Gov. Roy Cooper to order a halt on building new gas pipelines and power plants in North Carolina.
In a letter to the governor Thursday, Duke earth sciences professor Drew Shindell and the former officials said carbon from burned natural gas and leaking methane from wells and pipelines contributes to climate change and endangers public health and the economy.
Shindell spoke about the letter during a conference call with reporters Thursday morning organized by the environmental group NC WARN.
"The time is now to stop building more fossil fuel infrastructure across the country," Shindell said. "We're urging Gov. Cooper to take the lead and halt new pipelines and power plants in North Carolina, providing an example for the rest of the country, and even for the rest of the world."
Shindell said developed countries, including the United States, need to move more quickly to help meet a goal of limiting global temperature rise.
"Building new fossil infrastructure now is not compatible with that," he said.
A panel of scientists organized by the United Nations has recommended eliminating carbon emissions by 2050 to slow global warming. But Shindell thinks the United States and other industrialized nations should try to hit that target sooner, by 2040.
NC WARN is a frequent critic of Duke Energy, and wants to see more renewable energy in the state. The group opposes Duke Energy's plans for more gas-fired power plants and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The pipeline project has been held up by legal challenges from environmental groups. The Supreme Court last week agreed to hear an appeal by the pipeline builders, including Dominion Energy and Duke Energy.
Duke Energy has said it's shifting to cleaner energy sources and hopes to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, if technologies improve. In a statement, the Charlotte-based utility responded to the experts letter:
"Duke Energy has significantly reduced its carbon footprint and has proposed additional steps to further transition to cleaner energy sources. We are seeking to accelerate the depreciable lives of several coal units in our recent rate request with the NCUC (North Carolina Utilities Commission). Natural gas is critical to providing the citizens of North Carolina with their daily electricity and natural gas needs. It is safe, clean and affordable and increasingly important to balance the addition of intermittent renewables onto our system."
Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said: "Governor Cooper is committed to a 100% renewable energy North Carolina, and the Clean Energy Plan sets our state on a workable path to get there."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Quality said the Clean Energy Plan recommends that “societal and environmental factors” be taken into account as the state consideres how to implement the plan. "We appreciate the input and will include it in the process and we also look forward to ongoing public input," said Sharon Martin.
READ THE LETTER
Oct. 10, 2019, Letter to Gov. Roy Cooper by Drew Shindell and former EPA officials