What is wrong with Duke Energy?

By: Alex Hale

This summer, Duke Energy has been in the news way more than I think they would want. This is because of terrible things their company is proposing, including placing a transmission gas pipeline through residential neighborhoods and attempting to shut off a customer’s energy without informing them beforehand. It is unclear at the moment, but it appears that they are only concerned with their bottom line.

Duke is proposing a new gas pipeline project that is projected to run through residential neighborhoods here in Hamilton County. It is estimated to be about 12-14 miles long, 31 inches in circumference, 721psi (pounds per square inch) and just three feet underground. It is going to be a transmission line, meaning it will take gas as far away as Texas without affecting the energy costs of Cincinnati.

2There have been explosions in the past with these pipelines, and they have had devastating effects. In Manitoba, one of these pipelines burst last year. Based on some pictures taken of the explosion, it is estimated that the flames were about four times the height of a regular telephone pole. Locals said they could see the explosion from miles away. Now, imagine this type of explosion at Kenwood Towne Center, or by churches and schools.

In addition to these concerns is the plan to put it three feet below the ground, above the frost line. This means that if the pipe freezes, it could leak and there would be an explosion with incalculable damage. In San Bruno, Calif. A pipeline similar to the one Duke is proposing exploded in 2010. The blast was are caused by a faulty seam in the line. The explosion killed eight people, injured 50 and destroyed many homes. We as a community cannot stand by while Duke Energy risks lives for the sake of profits.

Duke is also applying for a waiver that would no longer require them to give in-person notification before disconnecting services. Legally, they have to notify customers. This never used to be a problem because, to shut off the energy, they would have to flip a switch inside the home itself. Now, they can remotely shut it off, which means that it is a major inconvenience and extra expense for Duke to send someone to these homes. They propose that instead of sending someone physically to a customer’s door, they could call them instead.

The problem is if these customers are struggling to pay their energy bills, they also may be struggling to pay their phone bill, and they might not receive that notification. The only surefire way to say that they received that notification is direct in-person interaction. Some people may hide inside, but a notice can still be left on the door. At that point, an adequate effort has been made to contact them.

So why does this matter for us at Xavier? We simply have to look at the whole purpose of a Jesuit education. We are supposed to protect the environment and stand with the poor. We are supposed to enrich ourselves with the fantastic education we are receiving in order to spark outward reaction. Everything we do needs to give glory back to God, and we do that by standing up for the people who cannot stand up for themselves.

Alex Hale is a junior in the Philosophy Politics and the Public Program from Detroit, MI. He also works with Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.

This pipeline may not run by campus, but many of us go to Kenwood Towne Center or travel on the roads that will be torn up from the construction. We may not be struggling to pay our energy bills, but that doesn’t mean that we are allowed to sit back and pretend that it is unimportant. We need to understand that when our brothers and sisters across the country are hurting, we are hurting too.

I do have to say that Cincinnati values all the good that Duke Energy does for us, including being a good corporate citizen and employer. This is not meant to condemn them, but rather to ask that they change their minds on issues that are hurting our community. Please reach out to your elected representatives at City Hall and tell them to do everything in their power to stop these terrible things from happening. As a member of P.G. Sittenfeld’s team, I can tell you that we are doing everything we can, but we need everyone’s help.

We need your voices to show Duke that the community will not stand by and let them get away with these actions. Email our office at pg.sittenfeld@ cincinnati-oh.gov in order to receive more information on what you can do to fight these measures.