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Letter to the editor

As described in a Sept. 8, 2016 article in The Chronicle, the proposal by Duke Energy to construct a natural gas-fired power plant on the Duke University campus presents many problems. While the proposal has been in negotiations for more than a year, specific information about the project has yet to be made public. Once the proposal is approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, it will be too late to have a robust conversation about how to power Duke University’s campus going forward.

Those conversations are long overdue. Completed in 2009, the Duke Climate Action Plan is based on outdated assumptions. It should be completely redone to account for the successes Duke University has made and for the challenges and opportunities it faces as a growing campus. Costs for solar modules have steadily declined since 2009. While the price of natural gas is low, its price has stabilized and is likely to rise in the future. Betting on natural gas to supply nearly all of our campus power needs poses a substantial financial risk.

Additionally, the climate math on natural gas makes it a loser in the long term for Duke University’s commitments and for our Earth. Duke University’s founding principles state that the University aims “to render the largest permanent service” to the larger society. Our University’s leadership does not render the largest permanent service when it locks us into more decades of dependence on fossil fuels.

Duke University should not move forward with decisions on major new natural gas infrastructure on campus until a new Climate Action Plan is completed. Duke University should urge Duke Energy not to move forward with approval of the project until after that decision. After a new Climate Action Plan is produced, university leadership will have better information on which to make a decision which charts our course to climate neutrality. Rushing this project through before a new Climate Action Plan is prepared deprives students, faculty and staff from having a say in the future of this University which we all love.

Sincerely,

Professor Ryke Longest
Duke University School of Law

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