We KNOW at least one Duke merger secret offers rate breaks – News Release from NC WARN
- June 21st, 2012
There’s at least one solid reason that neither Duke-Progress nor the Utility Commission Public Staff has denied a key NC WARN charge when asked by reporters:
We KNOW that at least one of the 15-plus deals offers a rate break to selected industrial customers. It’s referred to at the end of Duke’s cover letter in the newly created Economic Recovery docket.
Although that particular deal doesn’t directly harm other customers (yet), that’s only because Duke proposes to fund the pilot program with shareholder money. They will then almost certainly claim success and continue the program by shifting more costs onto other ratepayers.
In the merger case, it is highly unlikely that this is the only secret deal that involves special rates.
That’s why NC WARN moved earlier today that all 15-plus secret settlements are subject to the NC Public Records Act, thus the Commission must unseal them and allow us to cross-examine witnesses about the secrets at the Monday hearing.
We encourage all editorial boards to join the call against secrecy in this extremely important case.
See NC WARN’s second motion today
Attorney John Runkle argues that the Commission erred in limiting the overall scope of Monday’s hearing. A few highlights regarding merger changes that require examination:
> Many of the settlement agreements with individual customers or groups of customers were apparently renegotiated to reflect the changed circumstances stemming from the FERC Order and forecasted changes in fuel savings.
> In its Order, the Commission did not adequately address NC WARN’s argument that changed circumstances, especially those occurring since the September 2011 hearings, should require the Commission to allow cross-examination and cross-examination exhibits. As an example, the Duke Energy testimony at the hearing regarding the insurance recovery for the mismanaged repairs at the Crystal River plant remains in the record even though it is no longer correct. This is a material and significant difference due to changing circumstances.
> It should be noted that the utilities’ filing of June 19, 2012, did not deny any of the allegations raised in the Position or even question their relevance to the merger; the utilities’ argument was simply that NC WARN should not be allowed to raise the changed circumstances at any subsequent hearing on the merger.
> In its Order, the Commission additionally accepted the argument by the utilities that NC WARN would have the ability to challenge any of the issues raised in the Position “to the extent these issues materialize in the future they will be addressed by the Commission in other dockets.” This begs the question of whether these future actions are part of the merger negotiations or not. The “let’s hear it later” position is specious in that the issues raised by NC WARN go to the fundamental nature of the merger, its costs and benefits to the public, and issues that are part of the merger should be heard in the merger docket, not in subsequent dockets.
> Furthermore, in the first of the merger settlement provisions that have come to light, Duke Energy’s proposed Economic Recovery Rider in Docket E-7, Sub 1013, Duke Energy is vigorously opposing NC WARN’s motion to intervene. If certain customers or class of customers are receiving a discounted rate as part of settling the merger docket, then that is part of the merger and should be investigated at a hearing on the merger.
> If the Commission reconsiders its Order and allows NC WARN to cross-examine the Duke Energy and Public Staff witnesses on the broader issues proposed, NC WARN would request that the utilities make available someone in upper management that is privy to the settlement agreements, including the proposed purchase of shares of the V.C. Summer plant, and the increase costs at Crystal River and Levy County, and related matters.