NC WARN will likely urge NC Supreme Court to modify the deal and force regulators to address costs to ratepayers – not just benefits to the world’s largest corporate utility
The NC Court of Appeals today denied NC WARN’s challenge to the 2012 corporate merger that created the world’s largest electric utility. We believe the Court erred and we are likely to appeal to the NC Supreme Court.
In short, Duke Energy has profited heavily from the merger while its customers are getting soaked by rigged rates and backroom dealmaking that hid the true costs of the deal.
The Appeals Court deferred to the NC Utilities Commission’s judgment that the merger somehow benefits the public. We remain convinced that this merger is not in the ratepayer’s interest, as required by law. There are no benefits for residential customers, especially low-income families who are particularly hard-hit by serial rate hikes and increased cut-offs.
NC WARN believes the courts should force the Commission to reopen hearings and require analysis of the actual impacts the merger has on customers – not just Duke’s purported but unsupported claims that the merger would benefit customers.
Since the merger’s post-investigation closure in 2012, after a backroom deal between the Duke CEO and Chairman Ed Finley of the NC Utilities Commission, Duke Energy’s well-publicized nuclear plant fiascos in Florida have supported NC WARN’s concerns that problems in one state create upward pressure on rates and Duke’s guaranteed profit levels in North Carolina. The Commission blocked our inquiries into those failures before approving the merger.
Then, during last year’s rate case, NC WARN caught Duke trying to charge Carolinas customers $165,000 for a 2012 study of the cracked Crystal River plant – after Duke and the Commission repeatedly claimed that NC customers are “insulated” against Duke’s problems in Florida.
The NC Supreme Court has already reprimanded the Commission – once so far – for not prioritizing the impacts on customers when allowing Duke to raise rates to meet that monopoly-contrived profit level of 10.5 percent. NC Attorney General Cooper has appealed three Duke-Progress rate hikes on those grounds, and the merger controversy goes to the same issue of exorbitant Duke profits and impacts on customers.
In separate cases, federal regulators are investigating Duke’s compliance with its merger order, and the NC Appeals Court is still weighing our complaint about the Finley-Rogers backroom deal that “resolved” the commission’s investigation while protecting Duke from answering NC WARN’s concerns.