The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Indiana Environmental Reporter.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its latest major assessment underscoring the urgent need for governments to act on climate change, and the unthinkable consequences if we don’t.
The scientists say plainly that immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in carbon emissions are required to limit climate change. One of the report authors said, “In order to stabilize the climate, we have to stop emitting immediately, full stop.”
You may be surprised to learn that Indiana, as the third-ranked state in the U.S. in terms of carbon pollution from electricity generation, is critical to building climate solutions. Indiana is home to five of the biggest and dirtiest coal-burning power plants in the country and we have a responsibility to move quickly away from coal to clean energy.
Indiana’s biggest carbon polluter is Duke Energy, which operates the Gibson Super Polluter coal plant in Southwest Indiana. Gibson releases millions of tons of greenhouse gases every year and is one of the worst-polluting coal plants in the country.
Local leaders know this must stop. Recently, 23 Indiana public officials — including mayors, state legislators, and city, county and town councilors — sent a letter to Duke calling on them to retire their coal plants and replace them with clean energy. These officials, representing thousands of Hoosiers, noted, “Duke is lagging behind all other Indiana electric utilities in terms of transitioning away from fossil fuels to clean energy, unnecessarily driving up customer costs with expensive, wasteful coal-burning and hindering our ability to mitigate the impacts of climate change on our communities.”
Right now, Duke Energy Indiana is holding its 20-year energy planning process, and those plans have never been more consequential as the window closes on our chance to protect our communities from an unimaginable future. Yet, Duke Indiana President Stan Pinegar recently hinted that Duke might kick the can down the road when it comes to retiring coal.
Every additional increment of warming increases the frequency and intensity of heat waves, heavy precipitation, and droughts. Every year counts. Duke needs to take action and announce the near-term retirement of its coal plants and replacement with clean energy — not fracked gas — now, in this plan, to be filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in November.
In the meantime, Duke has also found a way to exploit the pandemic for its own benefit: all public meetings for its planning process are being held remotely, but with strict limits on people’s ability to comment, ask questions, or even see what questions are being asked. Duke is silencing the voices of customers who are calling on them to act on climate change and shutting down authentic public involvement and transparency in the process.
In 2020, Duke’s Gibson coal plants dumped 33 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, more than any other electric utility in the state. We can’t avoid the consequences of that.
But Duke can take action now to reduce future harm. And they must.
Wendy Bredhold is the senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Indiana.