CHARLOTTE — Duke Energy shareholders are not the only interest group unhappy with some of the energy giant’s recent dealings.
Representatives from Greenpeace, Energy Action Coaliton, CREDO Action and other groups gathered Wednesday at Duke Energy Headquarters to protest the company’s funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of conservative state legislators who advocate free-market enterprise and limited government. The protesters oppose the company’s funding because ALEC supports voter identification laws, which they said discriminate against minorities and other demographics.
The company donated $50,000 to underwrite ALEC’s meeting in Charlotte in May.
“Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers took out a $10 million loan for the [Democratic National Convention], yet donated to ALEC earlier this year,” said protester Connor Gibson, a researcher for Greenpeace.
Duke Energy Spokesperson Dave Scanzoni said that the company belongs to a number of different organizations, but that does not mean it agrees with the groups on their political stances.
“ALEC has been an effective way to make connections with various elected officials to discuss energy policies,” he said.
Duke Energy leadership never disclosed the amount of money it acquired for the DNC, but it guaranteed an unusual $10 million line of credit, The Charlotte Observer reported. In addition to the company’s political allegiances, protesters spoke out against dirty energy practices.
Protesters chanted, “No coal, no hikes, no fracking way!” as onlookers and media formed a circle around them. The latter reference is to hydraulic fracturing, the practice of extracting natural gas deposits by pumping water and chemicals deep into shale rock formations. The procedure has prompted concerns of groundwater and air pollution around fracking sites.
“We want Duke Energy to move away from coal and mountain top harvesting and instead move to clean energy,” Gibson said.
Sanzoni noted the green energy practices that the company already has in place, particularly Duke Energy’s level of engagement in renewables such as wind and solar power.
The utilities company has been in hot water with investors and the public since its merger with Progress Energy in early July. The merger sparked scandal and significant media attention when Duke Energy’s board ousted the CEO it promised to keep throughout the merger just hours after the deal was complete.