Duke Energy will request rate hikes for coal ash disposal

Because every step they take is a money-making opportunity:

"But we will do everything we can to keep cost impacts as manageable as possible in any potential cost recovery filing that we might make in the future," Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said in an email.

The company said excavating and reburying the coal ash in lined landfills could cost as much as $10 billion. That's more than Duke Energy spent to scrap a quarter of its coal-burning power capacity and open 10 new natural gas and coal plants in North Carolina, Florida and Indiana since 2009, the company said.

And now comes the economic coercion: If you force us to do what we should have done in the first place, bury this toxic mess in lined pits, we will make you pay for it yourselves. Besides, we have better things to do with our profits than fix our own mistakes with it:

Last week, Duke Energy Corp DUK, +0.68% announced the electric utility had reached an agreement to buy Piedmont Natural Gas PNY, +0.19% one of our Top 10 DRIPs (Dividend Reinvestment Plans), for $60 per share in cash — a 40% premium to the stock's closing price last Friday.

This takeover offer is about $15 per share higher than the point at which we would have considered taking profits in Piedmont Natural Gas. (See Candidates for Profit-Taking.)

Despite agreeing to pay a 40% premium to Piedmont Natural Gas' most recent closing price, Duke Energy won't need to stretch its balance sheet to fund this $4.75 billion takeover.

The total deal value amounts to less than 10% of the Duke Energy's market capitalization, and the electric utility plans to issue $500 million to $700 million worth of equity to help fund the transaction — implying a less than 1.5% increase in its share count.

Bolding mine. Get it? Duke Energy has set aside more than $47 billion in assets, a lot of them already liquid, just for the acquisition of more companies and facilities. And they're going to wring their hands in front of the Utilities Commission about how costly the coal ash cleanup is, and how they need help from us ratepayers to cover those costs. And they will likely get what they want, because that $47 billion won't even be mentioned.



Duke Energy exists as a monopoly only because we allow it

We as citizens permit Duke Energy to exist as a monopoly.

We are wholly correct to rein in the excesses of the enterprise in every regulatory forum.

If those regulatory forums -- namely the NC Utilities Commission -- continue to fail in this regard, they should be replaced and their creators in the legislature must be held accountable.

It always comes back to the legislature. It always has in North Carolina.


That extra premium they paid?

To sweeten the deal with Piedmont shareholders? About $1.3 billion dollars. Which is more than twice as much as their fines, settlements, and costs accrued to date disposing of coal ash.