Heavy blow against Duke’s business model – a partial win for NC WARN and allies
Statement by Director Jim Warren:
In response to a petition filed last November by NC WARN and Friends of the Earth, the NC Utilities Commission today proposed rules that would prohibit Duke Energy’s public utilities from charging ratepayers for political contributions, charitable contributions and lobbying expenses.
The Commission proposed rules that would apply to electric, natural gas, water and sewer utilities.
We appreciate the new commission taking our concerns seriously. This is a heavy blow to Duke’ business model. Its executives spend millions annually to buy favor and stifle criticism of the corporation’s role in driving the climate crisis, its coal ash fiascos and constantly raising rates to build unneeded power plants and fracked gas infrastructure such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
NC WARN and allies calculate that Duke Energy uses more than $80 million annually in the Carolinas to mislead the public and decision-makers as an essential plank of its business model that shields the corporation from accountability. Much of that has been happening this spring and summer as Duke tries to buy passage of its Ratepayer Rip-off bill, SB 559.
The Commission dismissed those portions of our petition which pertained to the parent company – but that issue might still be in play. We detailed how virtually all the influence spending originates from customer bills, and how Duke Energy uses an “accounting fiction” to claim that its stockholders or employees pay for image-polishing propaganda, targeted philanthropy, political giveaways and other efforts to buy favor.
The Commission added the following parties to this docket: Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress, Dominion, Piedmont Natural Gas, Public Service Company of NC, Frontier Natural Gas, Toccoa Natural Gas, Aqua NC, Carolina Water Service, the Public Staff, the Attorney General, and our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Petitions to intervene in the proceeding and initial comments are due on September 30, 2019.