FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 20, 2021
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KJIPUKTUK / HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – Today, a group of people from the Tampa Bay area, supported by allies in Nova Scotia, tried to attended the annual meeting of the shareholders of Emera, Inc. to demand that its subsidiaries, Tampa Electric Company (TECO) and Nova Scotia Power, abandon their plans to continue burning coal at its power plants. Tampa area shareholders attempted to get signed up for the meeting or get a proxy assigned but were given excuses in the final hour as to why they could not attend.
“This is a clear sign of their record and attitude with regard to diversity. They don’t want to hear the reality: that they have no Black board members in Emera or TECO; that their continued use of fossil fuels contributes to poisons being filtered through the lungs of young black and brown children, contributing to their struggles. So, Emera works to block the voices of these people,” said Walter Smith, Tampa area organizer for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Florida. “Joe Robinson is a local leader of the NAACP in Tampa, is a former TECO employee, and is a shareholder of the company and Ella Coffee is a longtime advocate for a community closest to the coal and gas power plant in Tampa.”
“Emera needs to step up to shut down fossil fuel plants across its operations in the next ten years, but from Nova Scotia to Florida we know they continue to drag their heels. Nova Scotia Power needs a credible plan to shut down coal and forest biomass starting yesterday, to commit to no new investments in natural gas, and to immediately switch to wind, solar, and storage. ” said Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Programs Director for the Sierra Club Canada Foundation. “Three residents from Tampa, Florida and one from Halifax, Nova Scotia shared their concerns with the Emera board and CEO Scott Balfour in an attempt to sound the alarm about public health impacts and climate change.”
Statement/ question from Nina Tatlock, shareholder residing in Apollo Beach, FL:
“As a resident of Apollo Beach, where the TECO Big Bend Power Plant is located , a town that sits next to Tampa Bay, I continue to be concerned with rising levels of sea water and the increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes. TECO has plans to build a 20 ft. seawall for protection, but the town of Apollo Beach doesn't have the capacity to build a 20 ft. seawall. The TECO Big Bend Power Plant also has produced a dangerous Coal Ash pit and when a hurricane comes through that area, the whole town of Apollo Beach & the surrounding area will be overwhelmed by coal ash. What plans do you have to clean up this coal ash pit?”
Today’s action was a part of the Sierra Club’s #TellTheTruthTECO campaign—a media, digital, and in-person series of actions holding TECO accountable for their plans to burn climate-disrupting fuels in the Tampa Bay area, despite Tampa’s status as one of the most climate change-vulnerable cities in the world. TECO’s plans for their Big Bend plants include elevating portions of them by 14 feet and building a sea wall to try and protect them from sea level rise, despite burning the very fuels that cause sea level rise and doing nothing to protect the surrounding community.
Joe Robinson, an EMERA shareholder, was told late yesterday that he had missed an arbitrary date that was based on no correspondence from the company to sign up to attend the shareholder meeting. However, EMERA did agree to read his full statement at the meeting:
“Emera and its subsidiary TECO are continuing to burn fossil fuels despite an urgent, global call to stop by Florida's Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “TECO’s plans to continue burning coal after 2030 and its obsession with burning fracked gas will not only leave the company financially underwater but will cause us all to be underwater when Florida’s coastal areas succumb to sea-level rise.” This is a serious issue in Florida coastal communities. Please consider their request.
“Finally, I attended the EMERA stockholders meeting 2 years ago and requested that a Black person be put on Emera’s Board as well as on Tampa Electric Company’s (TECO) local board. Mr Balfour said they would seriously look into doing so. I met with Mrs. Nancy Tower and discussed it as well. It has been 2 years, when is EMERA going to put Blacks on these Boards? Black people are customers and stockholders as well! Thanks!”
Ella Coffee, a Tampa Bay area resident who was hoping to attend the meeting would have commented:
“I have lived within sight of the Big Bend coal plant for most of my life. My partner has battled breast cancer for the last several years and now I am facing that same battle. TECO’s reluctance to move away from fossil fuels, whether it be coal or gas, increases our health risks when instead the company could be investing in clean, renewable energy.”
Ella Coffee, Walter Smith, and other Tampa residents are available for interviews and photos and video can be provided upon request.