Chicago. Los Angeles. Austin. Asheville. Wait, what? That’s right, Asheville, North Carolina, can now join the ranks of cities that have chosen to move beyond coal. On Tuesday night the city council voted UNANIMOUSLY to move the city from coal-fired electricity toward a clean energy future.

I was just in Asheville in July with my new friend Ian Somerhalder (of TV’s “Vampire Diaries” fame) to speak at a rally where hundreds of people gathered to urge the city to invest in clean energy. Here’s video from that rally…

…and now look at the fantastic results!

This move by the city council is the right choice for clean air, clean water, and the local economy. The resolution establishes a partnership between Duke Energy – owner of Asheville’s coal plant – and the city to work together in developing a plan to phase out the use of coal in western North Carolina.

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Duke’s coal plant in Asheville is the largest source of climate-disrupting carbon pollution in western North Carolina, which makes no sense for a city like Asheville that is a leader on clean air, clean water, and tackling climate disruption.

An investigation by a local riverkeeper also revealed that the coal ash ponds at the plant were leaking toxic chemicals into the French Broad River and groundwater. Coal ash is the by-product of burning coal for power, and it’s full of nasty chemicals such as arsenic and lead.

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“Duke’s toxic coal ash problem is another reason why Asheville needs this plant phased out,” said Hartwell Carson, the French Broad Riverkeeper who discovered the coal ash contamination. “The only way to permanently address toxic coal ash waste is to stop burning coal, and the city’s resolution is the first step toward that goal here in Western North Carolina.”

What an inspiring move, and a great model for other cities. This is an opportunity for Duke Energy to do right for its workers at the coal
plant and secure a just transition for them for when the coal plant is retired. The Sierra Club and the Asheville Beyond Coal campaign strongly support transitioning in a just manner.

I’m thrilled for my friends in Asheville — all those hundreds of people in the coalition there who helped this happed. Congrats to the Asheville Beyond Coal campaign and coalition partners the Western North Carolina Alliance and French Broad Riverkeeper, and the more than a dozen additional groups supporting the campaign.