Duke Energy protest preview | CLT Blog

Duke Energy protest preview

Posted on 19 Apr 2009 by Rhi Bowman

Tomorrow’s a big day for protesters hoping to convince Duke Energy to halt construction on their new Cliffside Coal Plant, or “steam station” as the power company likes to call them. To prepare, the group gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Sharon Amity Road for food, fellowship and a little non-violent protest training.


The protesters will gather again for a peaceful rally at Marshall Park Monday morning at 10 a.m. to take in a few motivational speeches — including one by Gloria Reuben — before marching to Duke Energy headquarters an hour later.

While organizers say this is a “symbolic line crossing” and that they’re “not actually trying to disrupt business, we’re just trying to make a statement and bolster the movement,” they are preparing protesters to be arrested, asking them to bring a photo ID and at least $100 in cash just in case the CMPD aren’t on the same wavelength.

But, why should you care?

Did you know Duke Energy’s Riverbend Steam Station, build in 1929, is still fully operational, on the bank of a Queen City water reservoir and less than a dozen miles from the heart of Uptown?

Here’s a view of the “steam station’s” smoke stacks from across Mountain Island Lake, which provides drinking water to more than half a million Charlotte residents:


Ever wondered why people are so concerned about coal plants? Check out the Sierra Club’s “The Dirty Truth About Coal” brochure. To sum up: coal plants are wasteful, the CO2 coal plants produce antagonizes global warming, the plants are too expensive (wind and solar are cheaper says Grant Smith, Executive Director of Citizen’s Action Coalition), and — don’t forget — the pollution they produce can make you very sick and even kill you.

See who was at the training, what they were up to, and a few more pictures of the Riverbend Steam Station:

photos: Rhi Bowman; view these photos in Flickr

For more information on tomorrow’s planned protest, which will go on rain or shine, visit StopCliffside.org.


  1. Avatar of Justin Ritchie
    Justin Ritchie 20 Apr 2009 at 10:59 AM

    Riverbend Steam Station and Buck Steam Station in Spencer are amazing pieces of history.

    On the top level of Riverbend, there is an old room made out of old, rich wood. It’s where teams of workers spent their days moving coal from bins into a moving belt. It was like I could feel the sacrifices made by those people. Industrial society has a dirty history but I was truly in awe standing in that place, contemplating the sacrifices those people made.

    Duke’s hydro stations are even older, like Ninety-Nine Islands in SC which went online in 1910, http://www.flopeye.net/story.htm

    The company relied on hydro until the mid-50s when air conditioners became the norm. That’s when Duke transitioned from being a hydro company to a fossil company.

    • Justin Ruckman 20 Apr 2009 at 12:16 PM

      That’s a really important point, I think — about how Duke’s energy production methods are a function of our own demand. Are we protesting Duke, or are we protesting our own (currently) unsustainable hunger for energy?

  2. RhiBowman 20 Apr 2009 at 1:01 PM

    Great question, Justin. I think the answer is “both.” We can’t take ourselves out of the equation.

    Yesterday afternoon I asked Grant Smith if raising energy rates would encourage people to pay more attention to their energy consumption. His response is included above. He talked about how expensive it is to build coal and nuclear plants and how it’s less expensive it is to fund solar and wind projects that can start contributing to the grid much faster.

    In his opinion, old-style energy companies are doing things the way they’ve always done them because that’s the way to the bank and that the money for projects like Cliffside could be put to better use if it were redirected toward renewable sources. He said using renewable sources will not raise consumers’ bills but that building new, yet antiquated, plants will.

    He did not talk about using less energy, but that could be because our conversation was cut short.

    I’m going to the protest today and will ask the protesters about their own energy usage. It’s something we should all be conscious about, something all of us can actively participate in — at no cost — starting now.