Duke Energy

The arrogance of (Duke) power

As a 35-year customer of Duke Energy, I expect to be able to navigate their maze of “customer service” barriers with relative ease. I’ve started, stopped, and transferred service dozens of times with only minor injuries. This week, however, I met my match. I ran into the grotesque monstrosity known as Duke Protection. It is a bureaucracy so impenetrable and imperious, it would stop Indiana Jones dead in his tracks.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of dealing with Duke Protection, you must count yourself lucky. They are the gestapo of the Duke Energy monopoly machine, and they operate without regard to reason.

The story of my frustration is simple one. Through a billing mix-up that is impossible to track down, the electric service to my daughter’s apartment in Chapel Hill was cut off without warning last week. When she called to get service restarted, she was directed to Duke Protection, where Melody, a mindless cog in the monopoly machine, determined that she must show an actual Social Security Card to affirm that she is indeed who she says she is.

If you live in Chapel Hill and don’t have a car, you are shit out of luck in the Social Security Card department. The closest office is in Durham, which may as well be the moon to a person living ten miles away without transportation. Even for those with transportation, the ordeal is arduous. Just the sort of thing Republican's love, as evidenced by their Voter ID fetish.

Coal Ash Wednesday: What do you think?

Coalition of government agencies seeking public input on mitigation efforts:

Love the Dan River? Hate what happened to it in this winter’s coal ash spill? Got an idea for fixing some of the damage? A government committee with a highfalutin’ title wants to hear from you, possibly adopt all or part of your plan, and stick Duke Energy with the bill for carrying it out.

The group’s trustees released its “Scoping Document for Restoration Planning for Public Review and Comment” late last week, seeking public input on ways to undo damage the spill has caused to fish and wildlife, migratory birds, places in the river and wetlands where these creatures live, people’s recreational opportunities, and surface water and sediment. The initiative stems from an agreement Duke Energy signed in June with Uncle Sam and the two states, accepting its role in causing the spill and agreeing to restore the river, to the extent possible.

I have a feeling Duke Energy's definition of "to the extent possible" would differ greatly from what you or I might define it as. That being said, large rivers affect multiple ecosystems, and there's always a lot that should be done, coal ash spill or not. This appears to be an opportunity to maybe get some of these things done:

While coal ash ponds leak, Duke Energy patches holes in its image

One more example of the utility's misplaced priorities:

One of the worst accidents in Duke Energy's history turned out to be a big opportunity for a fledgling creative agency and video production shop in the shadows of the utility company's headquarters.

In two weeks during the spring, Wheelhouse worked with Duke to develop a concept, write scripts, shoot and edit video, complete post-production and launch the "It's Important" ad campaign. The series of 30-second spots played on TV, radio and online. "They needed a quick response and there wasn't time to go through a traditional agency," Williams says.

No, they needed a quick response to locate large deposits of the coal ash they spilled, so those concentrations could be removed from the riverbed ecosystem. Instead, they picked a spot where everybody could see them working, and ended up leaving 95% of the coal ash in the river. And now they've spent God knows how much money on radio and television ads since the spill, which we'll probably end up paying for via rate increases, and those other ash ponds are still in the same (bad) condition they've always been.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy to recreate the wheel, says it has a rounder version in mind

Reassessing water that's already been reassessed:

Duke Energy has met its first deadline under the regulatory framework codified in the state’s new coal ash law, providing regulators with detailed plans for assessing the groundwater issues at its 14 operating and retired coal plants.

Environmental groups have criticized the state for requiring the new assessment program. They contend the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources already has evidence of leaks from Duke coal ash ponds into groundwater.

There is abundant evidence that Duke Energy's water quality testing protocol is miserably flawed. Both DWQ and third party testing have found much higher concentrations of toxins than reported by the utility, so all this reassessment will accomplish is more conflicting data, and more delays for remediation. Future headline: "Duke Energy tests have confirmed coal ash ponds much safer than previously reported."

Turning Carolina Red: Reports from the Front of an Energy and Culture War

Turning Carolina Red

We don't often share press releases, but here's a good one. It's about a book called “Turning Carolina Red: Reports from the Front of an Energy Culture War.” You can read more about it and download a PDF version (or order it on Amazon) here.

According to the release:

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