This Friday, Duke Climate Coalition organized a rally urging the community to take action on climate change.

Part of a North Carolina-wide University Climate Day of Action initiative, the rally on Abele Quad was attended by about a dozen students. One major issue was the proposed Duke Energy natural gas, combined heat and power plant. No final decisions have been made as to whether the plant will be installed, but last week the University hosted a forum allowing shareholders to discuss whether the plant should actually be created.

Ericka Faircloth, water and energy justice organizer in the Durham office of Clean Water for North Carolina, said the proposed plant would benefit Duke Energy alone. 

“Natural gas infrastructure projects benefit the companies involved and not the people,” she said. “We are stuck with higher rates of poor electricity, dangerous infrastructure in our vulnerable communities and a fake promise of jobs. [There will be] more air pollution and impacts on our drinking water and our ground water. The climate will continue to suffer greatly if these companies will continue to build these unneeded pipelines and power plants.”

First-year Austin Jia said that protesting the power plant has taken a lot DCC’s energy this year. DCC President Claire Wang, a sophomore, noted that the effort has been successful due to support from the community. She said DCC has been circulating a petition against any long-term investment in fossil fuels through a natural gas plant. It has garnered more 2,000 signatures from students, faculty, staff and other members of the Duke community, she said.

President Richard Brodhead has defended the proposal in the past, arguing the plant is necessary to supply power to the Duke Hospital during emergencies or power outages. He also argued that natural gas would be cleaner than coal, which has been used in the past, and that CHP plants are known for efficiency.

Several students stopped by the rally to take pictures as part of a DCC photo campaign in support of the cause. 

“I think that the way that the debate has unfolded over the past year points to the power that campus members and community members have to shape these decisions,” Wang said. “A lot of the improvements that have been made to the proposed plant so far would not have happened absent this outcry and mobilization of students, faculty, alumni and community members, who are all relevant stakeholders in this process. I am very glad that the administration has heard our calls, and we do hope that we continue to work together moving forward.”

DCC organizers also sought to bring visibility to a variety of other environmental issues. Jia said that because of the current national political climate, students and the University community have to be proactive.

“We really believe that as our environmental and climate protections come increasingly under attack in this new political climate, it really comes down to universities and students to lead the charge in terms of climate action and climate advocacy,” he said. “Anything really counts. Action counts. Engagement counts.”

Wang agreed, saying that the political climate has also created a sense of urgency among students to get involved. 

“Climate is an issue that often people don't perceive as immediate, because each individual's contributions are often difficult to notice, but the fact is that we all benefit from and are dependent upon fossil fuels, whether we like it or not,” Wang said. “So we all have an obligation to take action, both individually and collectively, to make sure that we can move from fossil fuels to a renewable energy future.”