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Darden Rice joins Duke Energy protest, calls for city to measure its carbon footprint
Newly elected City Council member Darden Rice joined more than 100 protesters Wednesday urging Florida’s largest utility to invest in solar energy and speed the phase-out of the polluting coal-fired Crystal River power plant.
Rice – who joined the newly formed Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition – told protesters outside Duke Energy’s downtown St. Pete headquarters that choosing clean energy is “a smarter investment” than relying on coal.
Duke Energy has scheduled the retirement of the Crystal River plant by 2020, but coalition members said that it is imperative to shutter the plant sooner, as it is the No. 1 source of mercury pollution in Florida.
“This means years of unnecessary illegal pollution that harms public health and impairs the waterways,” according to the coalition, which circulated a petition for supporters to sign.
The coalition is pressing Duke Energy to close the plant by 2016 and start investing in clean energy, including solar and wind.
Rice was joined by several other coalition members, including representatives from the Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Awake Pinellas and the Gulf Restoration Network.
Rice said later that in addition to calling public attention to the need for clean energy, she plans to “work with my colleagues on the Council to introduce a clean energy plan” for taking inventory of the city’s carbon footprint and meeting local goals for reduction.
Rice said that there are grants available to fund such a project, which would involve the city taking an inventory to determine its baseline so that it could create goals and measure success.