News: CJ Exclusives

Protesters aren’t satisfied with Cooper’s green energy goals

One of several protesters who interrupted the Sept. 27 meeting of the Climate Change Interagency Council meeting and criticized Gov. Roy Cooper’s support of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  (CJ photo by Lindsay Marchello)
One of several protesters who interrupted the Sept. 27 meeting of the Climate Change Interagency Council meeting and criticized Gov. Roy Cooper’s support of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. (CJ photo by Lindsay Marchello)

Gov. Roy Cooper hadn’t finished his opening remarks at the Climate Change Interagency Council meeting before noisy protesters decried his position on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. 

State officials joined Cooper on Friday, Sept. 27 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh for an update on the climate council’s work. They discussed the administration’s Clean Energy Plan. Cabinet members made presentations on how their departments are working to meet clean energy goals. 

On Oct. 29, 2018, Cooper signed Executive Order 80 to address climate change and outline how the state could transition to a “clean energy” economy. The EO established the climate council and set goals.

Cooper’s administration wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase the number of registered, zero-emission vehicles in N.C. to at least 80,000, and reduce energy consumption in state-owned buildings. 

Respective department heads formally handed Cooper copies of the N.C. Clean Energy Plan, the Zero Emission Vehicle Plan, the Motor Fleet Zero Emission Vehicle Plan, and the Clean Energy and Clean Transportation Workforce Assessment Plan

The N.C. Clean Energy Plan, devised by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, calls for modernizing the electric grid and reducing fossil-fuel energy use. Under the plan, the state would promote solar and wind energy. Around 90% of the state’s annual power output comes from natural gas, coal, and nuclear power. 

Cooper said the state doesn’t need to sacrifice economic prosperity to ensure a cleaner future. With a little encouragement green energy, including wind and solar, could provide more jobs, the governor said. 

Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, said market forces have reduced carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide emissions in North Carolina. 

“Nuclear and natural gas are the most inexpensive, efficient ways to reduce emissions, while solar and wind are the most expensive and least efficient,” Sanders wrote in a blog post

Cooper sold his program as a common-sense proposal. “Our solutions cannot have a party label,” Cooper said. “Our solutions have to be based in science, data, facts, and not false political propaganda.”

The solutions Cooper’s administration proposed weren’t enough for some environmental activists. At the end of Cooper’s opening remarks, a handful of protesters stood and made mock alarm sounds. 

“We are in a climate emergency,” protesters shouted. “Climate leaders do not approve pipelines.”

Protesters shamed Cooper for approving the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a planned 600-mile underground natural gas transmission pipeline. Starting in West Virginia, the pipeline would run through Virginia and end in Robeson County. 

Activists said the pipeline would boost greenhouse gas emissions by promoting fracking. Protesters also held signs decrying the growing wood pellet industry. 

“I love public input,” Cooper said after police escorted protesters out of the room. “I appreciate the process that people have been involved in going all across the state and hearing from all kinds of people.”

During the public comment section of the meeting, several people praised the climate council’s initial work to address climate change. But most called for the council to tackle fracking, methane emissions, the ACP, and the wood pellet industry.

Cooper left before the public comment period — a point a few commenters noted with displeasure.