Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers defends company's ethics

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The message outside of Duke Energy's Shareholder meeting today from protestors was the same as the message inside from shareholders.

"I'm a lifelong resident of Charlotte, and in my lifetime, my younger sister developed asthma, my mother developed asthma and one in four children in my generation will develop asthma," says shareholder Todd Zimmer. "This is because Duke Energy operates five dirty coal plants right outside our community."

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers says those plants are safe. "Today, we're acting appropriately and consistent with the law," he told a room full of reporters after the meeting.

"I mean, that's a load," replies Zimmer. "Pardon my language. But we know those coal plants are not safe.  I mean the American Lung Association gave Charlotte an F for air quality. We know that there are unlined coal ash dumps on Mountain Island Lake that are upstream from a source of Charlotte's drinking water," he says. "The part that really frustrates me is that Mr. Rogers and Duke Energy spend money to advocate against environmental protections that would make us safe."

But Rogers says the company has not lobbied against environmental regulations at the EPA.  He puts it this way: "We've worked with the regulators in Washington to get the regulations correct, so we can implement them in a careful, thoughtful way.  But at the end of the day, our goal line is not to stop the regulations but to make sure they work."

Young people aren't buying it.

"My generation is sick and tired of paying for the poor decisions that generations before us have made," says Jenny Marienau of the environmental group 350.org.

But Rogers seems miffed by them too. "Maybe my title CEO means Chief Educational Officer," he says, adding the company just spent $7 billion on clean energy technology. "People don't want to see rates go up, but they want to see electricity be cleaner. And they want both of those things to happen at the same time. And that's just not reality."