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Letter to the editor

To President Brodhead:

Last Wednesday marked 6 months since the proposed natural gas plant was first announced publicly. As you know, ever since this announcement was made, the plant has been met with significant concern among students, faculty, alumni, and community groups. The article published today in the Charlotte Business Journal is the most recent of a string of regional and local media coverage on opposition to the proposed plant.

Namely, concerns center on the impact of the proposed plant on the climate and on Duke University's climate legacy. The carbon reduction claims put forth by the university are based on a skewed accounting methodology that absolves Duke University of any responsibility of emissions from the proposed plant itself. Faculty and community groups stand firm that the carbon benefits of the plant have been wildly overstated and will likely increase overall carbon emissions. Claims that the plant will be directly fueled with biogas in the future are highly tenuous, given that there is no plan for a commitment to biogas to be included in the contract and that the incentives for Duke Energy to invest in the highly expensive pipeline infrastructure to bring biogas from swine farms to Duke University are simply nonexistent, no matter how Duke University envisions it can help to encourage biogas development in the state. To continue to claim that this power plant represents climate action by the university is neglectful of the Climate Action Plan that the university has committed to and that you signed into effect, which calls on institutions of higher learning to be models of climate leadership and innovation.

Given the outcome of the presidential election, it is clear that bold climate action is more needed now than ever. If we cannot count on environmental leadership to come from our federal government, it is all the more necessary that institutions such as Duke University pioneer the way and forge a path for our state and region to follow. As we approach the 25th anniversary of the Nicholas School of the Environment and the final semester of your term as President of this university, let us secure your legacy and Duke University's legacy as a champion of true climate solutions, rather than let this momentous year be marred by a brand-new, long-term fossil fuel expansion.

I urge you to publicly agree to the stipulations of the resolution passed by the Graduate and Professional Student Council, which call on you to create a formal process of review over this proposed power plant by November 18, so that future changes to the proposal can be examined and issues such as campus energy reliability, which deserves attention independent of this gas plant debate, can be thoroughly investigated. Furthermore, I remind you of your promise for Duke University to play "a constructive and collaborative role as a responsible environmental citizen in the life of the surrounding community" and ask that you carefully consider the objections that have been raised about this plant's harms to ratepayers, public health, and the climate.

We all know that if we are to take climate change seriously, we must take ambitious steps at rapid decarbonization to arrive at a renewable energy future. Duke University has the tools, the resources, and the brainpower to get us to that future. The first step is to reject this proposed fossil fuel plant and to invest instead in the clean, renewable energy that this campus, this state and this country needs.

- Claire Wang, president of Duke Climate Coalition


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