The sheer arrogance of the all-powerful utility is astounding:
“It’s real easy to give money away when it’s not your money,” Clark said, referring to Duke representative David McNeill’s prior comments about the company’s spending on local charities. “If you’re gonna make the money, then suck it up and solve that problem.” The problem Clark is referencing to is what’s been done with past coal ash spills in the state. According to the Associated Press, Duke Energy wants an extra $477 million a year, with an 11 percent return on a measure commonly described as potential profit margin.
The schedule, which included the Richmond County meeting along with ones in Raleigh, Asheville, Snow Hill and Wilmington, was released the same day that Duke Energy said it doesn’t want to turn over documents about its coal ash management requested by Attorney General Josh Stein, who is monitoring the company’s rate request.
There could be any number of reasons why Duke Energy doesn't want legal scrutiny of those documents, from inflation of the actual costs in order to line their pockets or other activities that may fall afoul of state statutes. But there can't be any "good" reasons for them to withhold these documents, and their lame efforts at public relations are not improving their position:
Meredith Archie, spokesperson with Duke Energy’s corporate communications, said, however, that the rate increase would not be to used to help with the clean-up of the Dan River coal ash spill in 2014. “One thing that’s not included and we have never asked our customers to pay for is the Dan River coal ash spill,” said Archie. “What is included is past costs for our safe management of our coal ash basin.”
That, perhaps, was still not good enough for those in attendance.
Lois Jones, a Hamlet resident and Duke customer for more than 30 years asked the Utilities Commission to consider doing away with the rate increase, saying the burden always falls on the people of the community.
“We have to eat, and we have to have lights, but I’ve been following the coal ash thing for years. It’s always denial at first, and then the next thing it’s a full-blown problem that no one knew about,” Jones said. “It has to come to a point where the company is gonna have to think about the shareholders and the customers. If these companies never pay for these mistakes that they are knowingly making then that’s a lot. Eighteen dollars a month (increase) might not sound like a lot, but to a lot of people, that’s a lot. I think it’s unfair.”
Yeah, we already knew Duke was going to foot the cost of the Dan River spill, they were forced to promise that under the deluge of public outrage at the time. But considering how paltry the amount was ($3 million settlement with the EPA), excluding that from the rate increase makes very little difference. The NCUC is at a crossroads with this decision, and if they make the wrong choice, they'll never be able to come back. Get it right.