Public opposition in N.C. wins on rate-hike bill despite Duke Energy’s money influence
Today, the North Carolina Senate voted 48-0 to pass a revised version of Senate Bill 559 that the House of Representatives had passed yesterday 112-0. Public opposition to previous versions of Duke Energy’s controversial ratemaking bill had been strong and steady for the past several months, resulting in the bill stalling without a vote for the past four weeks in the House of Representatives.
Senator Phil Rabon, stating that he recognized the House was not going to act on the bill, withdrew Duke’s preferred bill yesterday and replaced it with one that only addressed how to finance storm recovery costs and left out the provisions that Duke wanted the most — but which would have resulted in the greatest risk and increased costs for Duke’s ratepayers. The bill now goes to Governor Cooper who has signaled in the past he would likely sign a bill that excluded the controversial rate provisions
Energy Justice North Carolina and Appalachian Voices, alongside environmental and clean energy advocates, consumer protection groups, and commercial and industrial stakeholders, fought hard against the bill since it was introduced in early April. These stakeholders contended that the ratemaking and return-on-equity provisions would result in billions of dollars in excess profits for Duke Energy — and extra costs for ratepayers — over the next decade with less accountability for Duke’s expenses, including coal ash cleanup costs and what the monopoly utility is claiming to be “grid improvement” investments. For its part, anticipating strong opposition and recognizing the windfall in profits the bill could generate, Duke had targeted its campaign contributions in the last election cycle in order to buy support from key leaders of the General Assembly to pass its bill.
Statement from Rory McIlmoil, Senior Energy Analyst for Appalachian Voices:
“While it took nearly seven months for our elected leaders to do the right thing and reject Duke’s attempts to fleece North Carolina’s families and businesses, this is how our democratic process is supposed to work. We hope that exposing the legislators who allowed Duke’s campaign donations to supersede the public interest leads to an abolishment of laws that allow the electric monopoly to write its own rules and buy it support for bills like Senate Bill 559 that favor company profits over ratepayers pocketbooks.”
Statement from Bobby Jones, Down East Coal Ash Coalition, Member of Energy Justice North Carolina Coalition
“Down East Coal Ash Environmental and Social Justice Coalition celebrates this progress toward a better energy future. As I said from the onset this was a David and Goliath scenario. We, the ratepayers of North Carolina, had everything to lose and Duke Energy, the state electric energy monopoly with deep pockets, had everything to gain. Duke has a history of buying legislation and legislators, but by God’s grace, we the people were able to find a shiny stone called Energy Justice North Carolina, with over fourteen environmental justice organizations, and we were able to stave off this attempt to harm the ratepayers of North Carolina.
“And to the people of Goldsboro, Wayne County and eastern North Carolina, especially the black, brown and poor white, it is important that you remember the sponsors of the original harmful SB559 were our own Representative John Bell and Senator Dan Blue. Lest we forget!”