[also published in the Raleigh News & Observer]
By Bruce Henderson
A Durham advocacy group has asked attorney general Roy Cooper to investigate whether Duke Energy and the N.C. Utilities Commission engaged in illegal “backroom deal-making” during talks to settle the Duke-Progress Energy merger probe.
Duke CEO Jim Rogers told the Observer this month that he negotiated the settlement terms, working with commission Chairman Edward Finley. The agreement, approved in December, ended an investigation into the firing of former Progress chief executive Bill Johnson, who was to lead the combined companies.
N.C. WARN, a clean-energy group that has complained of unwarranted secrecy surrounding the merger, says the contact between Rogers and Finley apparently violated a state law against private communication between commissioners and the parties to a case.
“Under no circumstances should the CEO of the regulated utility, which was then under investigation by both the commission and the attorney general, have negotiated directly with the chairman to make such a deal,” WARN said in a news release.