Ratepayers already facing pain of Duke’s pay-offs to gain big customers’ approval of 2012 merger with Progress Energy
Durham, NC – State regulators yesterday made a strange ruling that, if upheld by the courts, would abolish part of an ongoing appeal of a 2012 merger that created the nation’s largest electric utility. Duke Energy is seeking to prevent NC WARN’s case from being heard by the NC Court of Appeals, and the state Utilities Commission is claiming it has the authority to govern what the court can hear.
Most of our appeal remains on track to be heard by the court, but we find it astonishing that the very regulatory body whose approval of the merger is being challenged as unlawful would attempt to limit the case. The Commission continues to make up the process as they go along.
We don’t believe a state agency whose actions are being appealed can tell injured parties what issues they can raise in the courts. We think the Court of Appeals will decide to hear our case.
In our appeal, NC WARN is alleging the Commission made numerous errors. We’re seeking to revoke or modify the merger so that Duke’s management and stockholders – not its customers – bear the costs of its corporate mistakes and secret deal-making.
Before approval of the merger and during its subsequent investigation, the Commission refused to act on NC WARN’s efforts to require Duke to address five key issues that bear on the key legal test for allowing the merger: whether it is in the customers’ interest.
Not by coincidence, there are two rate cases now before the commission where Duke and subsidiary Progress Energy are trying to make good on the pay-offs Duke offered big customers during the merger – to persuade them to drop their opposition. In both rate hike requests, the utilities are seeking:
1) to cut rates for some of the largest power users by up to 4%, and
2) to shift costs for new power plants from large customers to families, small businesses and local governments – a scam designed to perpetuate construction of climate-wrecking power plants that otherwise would not be needed at all.
The Brian Bryce law firm is assisting NC WARN attorney John Runkle in the merger appeal.