Duke Energy is a power plant company that owns assets in North America and Latin America with headquarters based in Charlotte, North Carolina. 2.4 million customers are served in North and South Carolina by its facilities, while 1.6 million more are served in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. Duke Energy sells energy to utilities, cooperatives, and municipalities. With a diverse mix of energy-generating resources, a generating capability of 7,600 megawatts increases electricity reliability during high demand.

Duke energy was formed in 1900 by Dr. Walker Gill Wylie and his brother. They purchased a hydroelectric power station that year and called the company the Catawba Power Company because it sat along the Catawba River. James Buchanan Duke was taken on as an investor in the Southern Power Company, which started in 1905, in order to get the ambitious plan of Dr. Wylie off the ground. It was later called Duke Power.

In 1988, Duke bought Nantahala Power & Light Co., and later in 1997 merged with PanEnergy, accounting for the new name, Duke Energy. The company later purchased Cinergy Corporation and now has customers in the Midwest. Chatham was also bought by Duke in 2006.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency took action against Duke Energy in 1999 for modifying old coal-burning power plants without a permit. Duke claimed that the modification didn’t require a permit under the Clean Air Act. Initially, Duke won in court, but when it was brought before the Supreme Court, it was ruled that a permit was needed because the plant could operate for longer hours, thereby increasing emissions due to the modifications.

Duke Energy has ranked very high among corporations that emit airborne pollutants in the U.S. They rank number 13, according to the Political Economy Research Institute, and number 46 according to research done at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Future plans to build a new power plant in Charlotte, North Carolina have been opposed by several environmental agencies and groups, including the Rainforest Action Network and Rising Tide North America. The Southern Environmental Law Center has threatened to sue Duke Energy if they do not halt plans.

Duke Energy has been planning a green biomass burning facility in Washington as part of a joint venture with AREVA, a French based energy firm. The purpose of ADAGE, the name of the joint venture, is to build waste-to-energy power plants all over the country. In its Washington plant, it plans to burn wood debris from forestland owners.

Aside from negative publicity resulting from its poor pollutant rankings, power plants like Duke pose a threat to workers inside the plants themselves. Especially in older power facilities like some of Duke’s, the risks of asbestos exposure were high. Although asbestos materials were valued as insulation in these industrial settings, they also posed a threat to workers, especially as they aged and deteriorated. When these broken fibers enter one’s system, they can lead to several devastating health conditions, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.


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