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As regulators hear Duke rate case, advocacy groups cite corporate greed — News & Observer

By John Murawski

Advocacy groups made their last-minute public appeal Monday to block Duke Energy’s third rate increase request in the past four years, as rate hearings got underway in Raleigh before the N.C. Utilities Commission.

NC WARN, AARP, Greenpeace and others staged a rally outside the state office building that houses the Utilities Commission, waving placards and signs and donning costumes. The activists staged a mock trial depicting the Utilities Commission as an ineffective straw man, and convicting Charlotte-based Duke of corporate greed.

The groups contend that Duke is socking ratepayers with bogus charges, including country club fees, Charlotte Bobcats sponsorships, as well as Washington, D.C. events staged at charities and the Kennedy Center. Some portion of such corporate expenses are generally allowed in rates as a legitimate business cost.

On Friday, however, Duke made a filing to the Utilities Commission admitting an accounting error in the way it calculated political contributions. The company said the $326,242 it wanted North Carolina ratepayers to cover should actually be reduced to zero.

Duke Energy’s North Carolina president on Monday acknowledged the company made errors in charges that it tried to pass on to customers, including $326,000 in political contributions.

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