Duke Energy

Coal Ash Wednesday: Time to pay the Polluting Piper

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Duke Energy seeks hundreds of millions in increased rates to clean up their own mess:

The Company is requesting recovery of ash basin closure compliance costs incurred since January 1, 2015, in the approximate amount of $66 million per year for five years; as well as recovery of ongoing ash basin closure compliance spending in the amount of $129 million per year, with any difference from future spending being deferred until a future base rate case. Recovery of ongoing costs will mitigate the need for future rate increases for compliance costs associated with coal ash basin closure.

This rate increase is further necessary to enable DE Progress to maintain its current financial position in light of those significant capital expenditures undertaken to meet its customers' needs.

Bolding mine, because it takes a special kind of hubris to demand your "financial position" not be jeopardized, regardless of how irresponsible your business practices have been. If this was anybody but Duke Energy or some other fossil fuel giant, the Free Marketers at JLF and Civitas would be having a whole mess of kittens over the idea of such a monopoly, much less the government helping them stay profitable.

Coca-Cola, Duke Energy, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Sponsoring Violent Hate Speech

Facing South has the news that the Civitas Institute is holding the Art Pope backed Conservative Leadership Conference in mid-June in Raleigh.

Duke Energy hampering investments in NC Solar farms

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It's all about the duration of contracts:

One of the nation’s biggest solar developers is challenging Duke Energy’s purchases of solar energy in a case before the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The complaint by California-based Cypress Creek Renewables focuses on an arcane topic – the term of power-purchase contracts by Duke. But its outcome could affect the way the solar industry continues to grow in the nation’s second-largest solar state.

Cypress Creek approached Duke about power purchase agreements for six large solar farms, totaling 400 megawatts, before Duke had filed its competitive-bids proposal. But Duke offered only five-year contracts instead of the longer terms usual for big projects.

This article is dated (February), but a very recent piece in the paywall-protected Charlotte Business Journal reported that Solar farm connections are down some 75% due to this new approach by Duke Energy to manipulate Solar growth in NC. Cypress Creek is a Santa Monica-based company, and has been very successful in rounding up investment dollars for NC Solar farm projects. But that measly five year contract is a killer, seriously undermining the return on investment (ROI) formula that has been so successful here. Like always, being in control is at the top of Duke Energy's list of priorities:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy's clever plan to charge us for cleanup operations

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Make deals with municipal power entities first, everybody else will be forced to follow:

Duke Energy has taken a first, major step toward billing consumers for its coal ash woes by making cost-share deals with several dozen North Carolina communities that buy their electricity wholesale for distribution on community-owned power lines.

In the last few months, the Charlotte-based utility has filed numerous petitions with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington seeking approval of these agreements for customers to pay some of its coal ash costs in “public power” communities ranging from Southport on the coast to Forest City in the western foothills.

You get that, right? Those municipal power "partners" basically do the same thing Duke does, sell power to individual citizens. Power initially generated by Duke Energy itself. And once those citizen ratepayers start shouldering some of the costs for Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash mess, it will be "only fair" that all other citizen ratepayers shoulder some (or all) of that cost. It's a fait accompli move that will put the NC Utilities Commission in an uncomfortable no-win scenario. If they refuse the rate increases for all other Duke customers, they leave the municipal customers paying more than others. If they approve it, they are hurting everybody. Except Duke Energy, of course. And here's a good example of why Duke chose this "divide and conquer" approach to bilking its customers:

Duke Energy positioning itself for coal ash-related rate increase

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Apparently profits are more important than fairness and responsibility:

Duke Energy responded sharply Wednesday to criticism from the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office and others who have questioned the utility’s opening move toward a rate increase that would help cover its coal ash cleanup costs.

The corporate attorneys told the commission in a filing late Wednesday that Duke Energy’s coal ash predicament meets the “criteria for granting a deferral,” a special accounting technique enabling it to set aside more than $700 million in accumulated coal ash costs for consideration in the upcoming rate case. “Denial of the request would adversely affect the companies’ financial stability,” they added.

That is, if you'll excuse the quaint terminology, a bleeding crock. Duke Energy has been paying a dividend to its shareholders every quarter for well over a half-century, and that dividend got a 4% bump towards the end of last year. But what's really ironic about their whining about coal ash, is how much they've invested in fracked natural gas distribution:

Coal ash documentary featuring Dukeville residents showing in New York

"From The Ashes" will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival later this month:

The documentary, “From the Ashes,” examines the history of coal in the United States, the long-term effects of the coal industry on communities and the future of coal. The Dukeville community and several familiar faces for observers of North Carolina’s coal ash controversy are featured in the documentary. They include Dukeville resident Deborah Graham, Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Frank Holleman and Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins.

Part of the documentary was filmed in Dukeville, which has dealt with questions about well-water quality for roughly two years. State law requires that Duke Energy provide a source of safe, permanent water to neighbors of its coal ash ponds by 2018. “From the Ashes” is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 26. Graham said she has been invited to attend the world premiere.

Once this documentary makes its rounds of film venues, it will be aired on the National Geographic Channel. Here's the trailer:

Coal Ash Wednesday: The legal battle over cleanup costs begins

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Duke Energy is hoping to fleece ratepayers, but the AG's office is watching:

The coal ash costs that Duke Energy seeks to recover are out-of-the-ordinary and very concerning because they may result in large rate increases for consumers. There are important questions that need to be addressed regarding whether all of the costs that Duke Energy seeks to recover were reasonably and prudentially incurred. It would not be appropriate to make important, binding, substantive determinations regarding recovery of these costs in a procedural, accounting-related docket. The Commission should ensure that all of the issues regarding coal ash cost recovery will not be resolved or prejudged until there is a complete evidentiary record in the upcoming rate cases.

Just to bring you up to speed: After the dam failure that allowed a massive amount of toxic coal ash into the Dan River, Duke Energy's other coal ash impoundments have fallen under close scrutiny, and a number of them have been designated for removal and relocation of the ash to a safer storage place. Duke Energy has estimated these various projects could end up costing as much as ten billion, although many experts say that is wildly inflated. The bottom line is, Duke wants to recoup as much of that cost as it can from customers, shielding its stockholders from shouldering the burden. The Attorney General feels otherwise:

Duke Energy to add more carcinogens to already impaired waters

I guess they're not worried about the EPA anymore:

As part of its 2015 criminal plea agreement, Duke Energy admitted that bromide discharged into rivers and lakes from its coal ash operations have caused carcinogens to form in downstream drinking water systems. Some of these carcinogens are so dangerous that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set their health protection goal at zero, meaning that people should not be exposed to any level of these pollutants.

Yet instead of taking responsible action to halt these bromide discharges, Duke Energy is proposing to add even more bromides to its coal ash basins, through changes to its coal plant operations. Duke Energy claims that the additional bromides will reduce emissions of mercury from its smokestacks. The utility is choosing this bromide production despite the fact that other modern, widely-used technologies—such as baghouses—are available to control mercury emissions without causing carcinogens downstream.

It's actually no comfort in realizing this is probably happening all over the United States, in the wake of the Trump admin's systematic destruction of the EPA. Hopefully our new DEQ will be able to bring some relief from the inevitable deterioration of our environment, but they've been cut to the bone also.

Victory for Dukeville: Coal ash to be removed

Of course it took a lawsuit to make it happen:

On Tuesday the Yadkin Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, reached a settlement with Duke Energy that requires the removal of all the coal ash from the unlined, leaking coal ash pits at Duke Energy’s Buck Steam Station facility on the Yadkin River in Salisbury, North Carolina. This is good news for the people who live near the plant.

Duke Energy, in a dig to the human beings who live near the Buck plant and have been vigorously advocating for clean water, issued a statement claiming that the decision was “Just business” and that coal ash is “safe”. They made no mention of the human cost of their profits.

Related note: Camel City Dispatch has been struggling financially for a few years, and is contemplating pulling back from investigative reporting on government (and environmental) issues, while focusing on social & cultural (dining, entertainment) stories. They will still publish input from readers on those other important subjects, but I fear that may not be adequate. I realize this campaign season has been (and will be) very demanding on your pocketbooks, but a donation to this publication would not be wasted.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Stith's refusal to testify begs the question

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What is he trying to hide?

Stith declined, on advice of attorney, to answer questions about coal ash pollution, the interaction between Duke Energy and state government, or about enforcement efforts against the utility. But he agreed to answer questions about his comments on Rudo.

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