NC WARN lampoons utility executives while publicizing the call to reopen the Duke-Progress merger due to billions in undisclosed charges to customers
Durham, NC – Watchdog group NC WARN today announced a statewide advertising campaign satirizing Duke Energy executives while calling for disclosure of billions in costs the nonprofit says the giant utility hid until after last month’s takeover of Progress Energy was approved.
The ads – running on-line and as full pagers in daily and weekly newspapers – feature artwork by award-winning cartoonist V.C. Rogers and are titled, What is Duke Energy Hiding? The answer: Just $2 billion … in rate hikes for customers like you.
NC WARN executive director Jim Warren said today the group is buying premium ad space in the state’s top media outlets to ensure the public can see past the “CEO soap-opera cover story” that has dominated the attention of regulators and the news media in recent weeks.
“Duke Energy is spending millions of ratepayer dollars – on ‘crisis PR firms’ and high-priced lawyers – to pretend the merger scandal is merely a drama about the firing of a millionaire CEO. But the NC Utilities Commission must openly address billions in ratepayer costs that Duke hid from scrutiny during merger proceedings,” Warren said today.
He said, “We’re buying ad space because, with a few exceptions, the news media has failed to apprise the public about the billions in hidden merger costs – which is utterly more important than the CEO melodrama.”
The ads are being paid for through donations by individuals and families, which fund over 90% of the 24 year-old nonprofit’s operations. The Durham-based group is awaiting a ruling by the Utilities Commission on its motion to reopen merger hearings based on what NC WARN says are costs Duke withheld from the Commission and plans to charge customers.
This round of ads focuses on the $2 billion in planned improvements to Progress Energy nuclear plants. The group is also pressing for disclosure about billions in repairs at a broken nuclear plant in Florida, and for Duke to come clean about rumored plans to invest billions in a South Carolina nuclear project, owned by other utilities, that has already suffered massive cost overruns.
Warren added today, “Duke and its “crisis PR firm” know they can weather the CEO soap opera narrative. They have successfully worked to bottle up the very damaging story about the merger’s hidden costs, and we are very concerned that Duke is spreading millions of dollars around to mute public, political and media scrutiny.”
Warren emphasized that the ads are targeting Duke executives. “We have great respect for the many talented and dedicated Duke-Progress employees who work hard each day to serve the public. But we have major disputes with millionaire executives who make decisions that drive up power bills and harm our health and environment.”