CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As hundreds of protestors chanted and banged drums outside the annual Duke Energy shareholder meeting, inside CEO Lynn Good greeted shareholders by telling them, It s been a year of accomplishment for Duke Energy.
In the first meeting since a 39,000 ton spill of coal ash into the Dan River, Ms. Good repeated a claim she has made before - that water in the Dan River has returned to normal.
The demonstrators outside chanted and held up signs showing their displeasure with Duke Energy during a Thursday morning protest.
They made sure that shareholders had to walk by them on their way to their meeting so they could get some of the message.
This was a dangerous time for our democracy when we can see the pollution in our water. We know that things have gone way too far, said James Browning of Common Cause.
Around 200 demonstrators showed up and were motivated by Duke s coal ash spill in the Dan River; Donna Lisenby of the Waterkeepers Alliance told the crowd that some things are more important than the bottom line.
They are polluting our waterways with toxic arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium, and thallium, rat poison thallium, that is so toxic it's not even legal to put in rat poison anymore, she said.
The Waterkeepers Association, Sierra Club, Environmental Justice Network and NAACP were just a few of the groups represented.
We are not against good business practices, but we are against business practices that step on and hurt and put at risk the lives of people, said Rev William Barber who started Moral Mondays and is head of the state NAACP.
For the most part the protestors parked at the front door to Duke s headquarters on Church Street, but they went on a brief march half way around the building.
The shareholders may not have listened, but the demonstrators are hoping that others will.
Company spokesman Tom Williams repeated the assertion after the meeting, While the cleanup continues, the water quality monitoring shows it's returned to precondition levels.
What Duke does not emphasize publicly is how the coal ash lines the bottom of the river, impacting trout and other aquatic life.
What it was was a partial bit of information -- a nice sound bite -- that doesn't tell the full story of what is happening to the Dan River, said Lisenby, who used her two minutes as a proxy for a shareholder to publicly invite Lynn Good for a canoe ride and approach her for a friendly handshake.
Duke also faced criticism at the meeting from representatives of large institutional investors who say secret political contributions undermine investors, making a motion that they be disclosed.
Every dime that is given to our PAC (political action committee) is reported to the Federal Election Commission, said Tom Williams, Duke s spokesman.
But Bill Dempsey, the CFO of the Nathans Cumming Foundation, who put together a group of socially conscious large investors to call for political funding disclosure, said the current disclosure is not enough.
And it basically just becomes a rather sleazy way to hide what you're doing. And what we are saying is just be transparent. Just be honest with your own investors. What is it you have the hide? Dempsey said.
His motion for full disclosure secured more than 42 percent of the vote but failed to pass.
Dempsey says he will be back.