Duke Energy announced recently a $10 million "Water Resources Fund" to be allocated for projects that promote clean water, habitat and public access in five southeastern states. While laudable, the action does not distract from the ongoing immense toll to the environment and health being exacted by Duke Energy nationwide. The onetime grant of $10 million, to be doled out at $2 million a year for five years, amounts to less than one thousandth of one percent of the company’s assets of $115 billion. This is equivalent to an average Joe, earning $45,000 a year, buying a $4 latte.
For this dubious largess, Duke cannot hope to improve its image. While Duke pays for kiosks along Carolina waterways, dozens of communities near 29 power plants owned or previously owned by Duke seek real investment to close and clean up more than 100 toxic coal ash lagoons nationwide. The Carolinas are home to nearly 40 of these leaking impoundments, but the majority of Duke’s hazardous dump sites are scattered across Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Florida.
While conservation projects are undeniably worthwhile, Duke’s green sheen ploy is alarmingly unresponsive to the urgent need for provision of clean water to blighted communities, cleanup of water poisoned with toxic chemicals, and closure of dangerous earthen dams that threaten deadly spills.
CEO Lynn Good grabbed a headline for proffering this modest gift. Yet this act was not an honest demonstration of concern for health and the environment, especially when opportunities to assist impacted communities are boundless. Good can start by offering bottled water to worried citizens living next to Duke’s leaking coal ash lagoons at their Buck Steam Station. And she should focus on the real problem—getting rid of hazardous waste everywhere her company has dumped it.