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North Carolina City Asks Duke to Cut Its Coal Reliance

"Replacing the coal plant with homegrown clean energy will clean our air and our water and boost our economy," Martin said. "It's the right choice for Asheville and a victory for our community."

The university town of 85,000 people in the Blue Ridge Mountain range had talked about the impact of global warming on the region for years. Tourism is critical to the economy in the western part of the state. People visit for hiking, fishing and whitewater rafting.

Wanting to maintain the area's natural beauty, the city in 2007 began studying ways to reduce its carbon footprint. Two years later, Asheville adopted a Sustainability Management Plan, calling for an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

As part of that plan, Asheville installed more than 3,000 energy-efficient streetlights, improved the infrastructure and management of buildings, and promoted fuel conservation. But with the Duke Energy coal-fired plant, some feared Asheville would never reach its ultimate goal.

So the City Council approved a resolution Oct. 22 supporting a clean energy economy -- and urging Duke Energy to help Asheville reduce its carbon footprint.

"Burning coal is the largest single source of carbon emissions in the Asheville area, releasing emissions annually equivalent to 500,000 cars," the resolution said.

The city said the region's "beauty, clean air and water are vital" to the region's economy, and that western North Carolina is a hub for clean energy development.

The resolution also noted that North Carolina filed an enforcement action against Duke Energy in March because the Asheville plant "poses a serious danger to the health, safety and welfare" of people and "serious harm to the water resources of the state."

The resolution said Duke Energy could help the city meet its carbon reduction goals by "decreasing its reliance on fossil fuels, including transitioning from coal to electricity provided by clean renewable energy sources."

The city also called on Duke to continue and expand its investment in programs for renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation.

But the resolution didn't ask Duke to shutter the plant.
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