By John Downey
NC WARN and other advocacy groups hope a seldom-used legal gambit will push N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper to investigate Duke Energy’s environmental practices and take the extreme step of ordering changes to the company’s corporate charter.
“Mr. Cooper has shown courage in standing against several Duke Energy rate increases that were unjust,” says Connie Leeper, organizing director for NC WARN. “We urge him to use this opportunity to provide unprecedented leadership to slow climate change before it spins entirely out of human control.”
Duke (NYSE:DUK) dismisses the filing as a “stunt.”
“This is the latest in a string of meritless allegations and gimmicks by NC WARN that are consistently rejected by regulators and an informed public,” says spokeswoman Paige Sheehan. “This is a nuisance filing that drains taxpayer dollars and chews up state resources.”
The organizations presented Cooper with an “emergency complaint.” It contends Cooper “can intervene on behalf of the people of North Carolina in order to police any corporation that abuses its power and recklessly endangers people’s lives and economic well-being.”
It accuses Duke of a “pattern of criminal activity, fouling the state’s air, land and water, continued injustices against low-wealth customers, using influence to control public debate and political processes, and holding back the growth of clean energy in order to maintain monopoly control.”
Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley says, “Our office will review the group’s submission.”
The steps the groups want Cooper would be extreme for any elected official to attempt. The groups ask Cooper to change Duke’s charter to require it to:
- Phase out its seven operating N.C. coal plants by 2020 without building natural gas plants;
- Stop any actions to block competition in its monopoly service areas;
- Refrain from making political contributions and other efforts to assert influence over the political process in North Carolina.
The groups cite specific constitutional authority and court precedent for filing such an emergency complaint, although the complaint acknowledges it “is an extraordinary process, and is seldom used.”