Statement from Director Jim Warren:
Durham, NC – It is quite curious that in arguing against the unsealing of 17 secret deals in the Duke-Progress merger case, large customers and the utilities avoid addressing the very “trade secrets” criteria detailed in the NC Public Records Act.
In a key filing yesterday, jointly by Duke, Progress and two industrial customer groups, the consortium vaguely states that opening the deals “would provide a much clearer picture of the energy and production costs … and energy strategies” that would give “significant competitive advantage” to competitors.
But how in the world could industrial customer advocates CIGFUR and CUCA justify such a sweeping claim that their hundreds of diverse corporate members would be hurt competitively if the deals – made with the groups collectively – are unsealed?
In fact, they don’t. Which furthers our argument that the deals must be unsealed.
With so many financial deals kept secret, it is unclear that the merger has any net benefit for retail customers – and that is the key standard governing state approval of this merger. This point is especially important because the lion’s share of the much-publicized $650 million in “savings” to customers (over a six-year period) aren’t savings at all – they’re lower fuel costs which, under North Carolina law, would pass to customers anyway.
We remain convinced that the NC Public Records Act requires the Commission to unseal all the secret deals, and that this must be done before a decision is made on the merger.