Duke Energy says it's not dirty

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A sprawling environmental non-profit says Duke Energy is one of the dirtiest utility providers in America.

Duke Energy strongly disagrees.

Green America counts 50,000 people as members and 2500 businesses, and in a new report, it calls Duke Energy the third worst energy provider in the country when it comes to protecting the environment.

The group uses a grading system to rate them all, and when it comes to reliance on coal, it gave Duke an "F". Ditto with Duke's use of Nuclear Power, and for emissions, Duke got a "D."

Todd Larsen works for Green America, and he talked to us today from its headquarters in D.C.

"Duke has a huge reliance on coal, and that creates a huge amount of pollution and waste," Larsen says. "So they are one of the top producers of carbon dioxide as well as other pollutants."

But Duke is dismissing the report.

"Duke Energy is proud of the electric system that we have and we're proud of our track record," says company spokesman Jason Walls.

Walls says the company has invested billions in reducing emissions and testing new green sources.

"Think $1.5 billion in both wind and solar," Walls says. "Think about $2.35 billion dollars invested in emission controls in the Carolinas alone."

Walls says he can't imagine a day when Duke could give up nuclear or coal, though.

"It's unrealistic to think that you could supply all the energy needs of our 2.5 million customers here in the Carolinas with wind and solar alone," he says.

Poised to become the biggest utility in the country, Duke actually has plans to build six more nuclear plants, pointing out that they leave a much cleaner carbon footprint than coal.

Green America is far from happy with those plans.

"It's a misnomer to call it a clean energy source," Larsen says. "And this is at time when more and more Americans are worried about Nuclear Power after seeing what happened in Japan."

Larsen says nuclear waste will become a problem for future generations, and he points out that Germany just vowed to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022.