Commentary by Jim Warren.
State regulators have cut another backroom deal with Duke Energy – in the $6 billion merger with Piedmont Natural Gas.
The July 18th hearing will allow statements from the public and parties to the case. But – as in past rate cases and the Duke-Progress Energy merger – the Utility Commission’s Public Staff (which supposedly represents the public) has already rubber-stamped Duke’s request, helping the corporation avoid scrutiny as it pursues a high-risk, climate-busting expansion of fracked gas.
Duke Energy even convinced the regulators to block testimony by NC WARN’s two witnesses: a shale gas expert who warns the natural gas industry is unstable and shale gas reserves badly overstated, and a methane emissions expert who points out the severe climate impacts of methane leakage from gas operations. Bizarrely, the Commission said their testimony isn’t relevant to Duke’s purchase of a natural gas utility.
The regulators have silenced anyone questioning the merger, telling interested parties: “don’t bother.”
Same old game. Duke Energy bids high and settles lower in a backroom deal; the Commission avoids the bother of a full-blown proceeding; and watchdogs investing time and resources to prepare legal cases are virtually ignored.
The People of this state pay the regulators’ salaries. We need them to put our interests above those of Duke Energy bosses.