NC AG Josh Stein fighting NCUC coal ash cleanup decision


Customers should not have to pay for Duke Energy's negligence:

State utilities regulators late last month decided that both North Carolina divisions of the country’s No. 2 power company could charge ratepayers the first $778 million chunk of a cleanup projected to cost about $5 billion.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said he’s going to court to try stopping Duke Energy from passing along its costs to excavate some ash pits and cover others. Corporate mismanagement increased costs that shareholders should also be forced to bear, he said in an interview. Duke Energy said that it followed industry practices and applicable regulations. “This case will ultimately be decided by the North Carolina Supreme Court,” Stein said.

Bolding mine, because that's a big reason Republicans have been putting so much money and effort into stacking said Court. It's not just to shield them from consequences of passing unconstitutional laws, although that is a factor. Providing legal cover for big business to take advantage of NC citizens will ensure those maximum campaign donations keep flowing in. But one of the most frustrating things about these Utilities Commission rulings is their grossly imbalanced effort to appear balanced:

The company’s Duke Energy Carolinas subsidiary, which operates in central and western North Carolina, could charge its customers the $546 million in coal ash cleanup costs incurred from 2015 to 2017, the commission decided June 22.

But the regulator also found fault with Duke Energy’s practices and assessed a $70 million mismanagement penalty. The company’s “irresponsible management” of its ash pits “has resulted in cost increases greater than those necessary to adequately maintain and operate its facilities,” commissioners wrote.

Still, consumers will pay about $476 million of the cleanup cost and the company’s shareholders about 13 percent of the subsidiary’s bill so far.

In February, the utilities commission allowed the company’s Duke Energy Progress operating subsidiary, which serves eastern North Carolina and the Asheville area, to charge customers $232 million for coal ash cleanup costs racked up already. Regulators simultaneously assessed the company a $30 million mismanagement penalty.

In both of those cases, the fines levied against Duke Energy by the NCUC represented 13% of what was being charged to customers. That's not coincidental, it's formulaic. Both Duke Energy as a corporation and its shareholders have raked in profits every Quarter for well over half a century, profits made from selling power to North Carolinians while poisoning our air and water, and now we get to foot 87% of the bill for cleaning up their messes.

If the North Carolina Utilities Commission thinks that's fair and just, then that governing body needs to be disbanded.