The following is testimony I gave at the sham of a public hearing sponsored by the Division of Air Quality to decide if Duke Energy was going to receive a final permit to build its coal fired power station at Cliffside. This testimony was given by me as a representative for NC Interfaith Power & Light, a program of the NC Council of Churches. I work part time for NCIPL as the public policy coordinator.
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I come today out of love – love for life, love for this beautiful world that was given to us as a gift to preserve and protect, and love especially for our children and grandchildren. I come because the bountiful world I was born into just 65 years ago is under siege from our mindless and careless way of living.
We are a violent people responsible for continuous wars and genocides. Today, there is a sin of greater magnitude being perpetrated by all of us in our violent, mindless, and careless way of living. We are perpetrating and perpetuating one of the greatest extinctions of life on Earth. Human society is not immune from the consequences of our actions. Certainly from the evidence of its dangers, we could consider using the 19th Century technology of burning coal to produce electricity the most violent activity of this century.
Burning coal is the original sin of industrial society. We know that using coal for this purpose is deadly and dirty from its mining, washing and processing, to its combustion in boilers that produce toxic wastes and hazardous air pollutants. The CO2 from coal smokestacks has destabilized the climate. The coal ash debacle in Tennessee and the 1000 other spills and leaks that have been under and un-reported compounds coal’s assault on society and nature.
Although I come here in love, I also come to speak the truth; and the truth is sometimes harsh. The DAQ has worked diligently to keep this permitting process from full and open public scrutiny. As an agency of state government, DAQ has an obligation to protect the public health and welfare. As an agency of state government, DAQ has a responsibility to ensure the public can be represented in this decision process, yet I had to drive from Mars Hill to present this testimony, and citizens from the eastern and coastal communities, from metropolitan areas such as Raleigh, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem have no ability to bring their concerns to public attention. By having the public testimony heard only in Statesville and Forest City, DAQ is blatantly ignoring its duty to serve the general welfare. We wonder with whom DAQ’s loyalty resides, Duke Energy management and shareholders or the public good. By hiding the hearings in Forest City, DAQ is preventing media coverage of the charade that these hearings represent.
Now I understand that this hearing has a very narrow focus. It is the question of Hazardous Air Pollution, and most specifically Mercury. Judge Thornburg clearly stated that Duke Energy should place best available technology on Cliffside #6. Clearly DAQ should follow the letter of the law on this issue. But it appears that DAQ is about to approve the Duke Energy permit on some bogus technicality by assenting to Duke’s contention that Cliffside is a “minor” source of mercury pollution.
Let us be clear. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. Contrary to belief, there is NO safe level of mercury for a growing fetus or child. The menu of toxins including Mercury floating in placental blood, breast milk, and food to a growing nervous system is astounding. There are NO “minor sources” of mercury. This is a false distinction based on the crazy logic of risk benefit analysis and fostered on us by an industry that cares more about shareholder value than healthy children.
Where is our moral compass when we compromise life being allowed to grow to its fullest potential? According to NC Department of Health and Human Services, mercury toxicity is the cause of over 13,000 cases of mercury poisoning in N.C. In some circumstances this is a question of life and death because children with mercury toxicity are mentally retarded and have seizure disorders, both causes of reduced life expectancy.
We must ask whom does DAQ serve? This is the fundamental moral question. The officials and staff of DAQ are public employees in the bureaucracy of our state government. But whom do you serve? Are you just number’s crunchers in service of Duke Energy? You could instead choose to serve life, specifically the children and beauty of the people and natural wonders of the State of N.C.
In our time, with the air and water continuing to be imperiled with toxins such as mercury, with climate change accelerating at a rate that will certainly flood our coastal cities by century’s end, and destroy our ability to feed ourselves with diminished capacity to grow our food, we are facing an ecocide of such proportion to make the stories of our Bible palpably real.
It would be good for all of us to reread the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament verses from Isaiah chapter 24
Versus like this speak to our concerns:
The earth dries up and withers,
the world languishes and withers,
the exalted of the earth languish.
The earth is defiled by its people;
they have disobeyed the laws,
violated the statutes
and broken the everlasting covenant.
We ask in the name of life to not break your covenant with the people of North Carolina.
Please make your decision on love, the duty to protect and preserve life.
The health and well being of all children are depending on your care and wisdom.
Please tell Gov. Perdue that here is no minor source of Mercury