By Bruce Henderson
RALEIGH — 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.
Paul Newton was the first witness Monday in a hearing in Duke’s rate case before the North Carolina Utilities Commission. He defended Duke against advocates who say the utility tried to overcharge customers.
A Durham advocacy group, N.C. WARN, claims Duke Energy Carolinas included $30 million in improper charges in asking for a 9.7 percent rate hike it has agreed to cut to 5.1 percent.
In his testimony Monday, Newton said the company made accounting errors in its filings. Duke on Friday acknowledged the $326,000 in political contributions that it said customers should not be billed for.
“We are a company of humans, and humans make errors,” he said. Newton said Duke would investigate why the mistakes happened.
Recipients of the contributions were the Republican Governors Association, the North Carolina and South Carolina Republican parties, and the group Strategies for the Global Environment.
WARN claims the errors in the filings are part of a pattern at Duke that includes attempting to charge customers for country club dues, sponsorships of the Charlotte Bobcats and lunches with Chinese bankers.
“Duke is trying to bilk the residents of this state,” WARN director Jim Warren said at a rally before the commission hearing began Monday afternoon. “These bogus expenses that Duke is trying to get away with have been tried in the last couple of rate cases.”