State legislators’ hot mess of a “sweetheart deal” for Duke Energy has stumbled out of the gate. The wave of opposition is good news for North Carolina residents and the environment.
Following months-long closed-door discussions between Duke, a few House Republican legislators, and scant other interested parties, a group of those legislators released their proposed bill late last Tuesday afternoon, and began discussing it the next morning before most people had had time to digest much of its 48 pages. The bill, really a long amendment to an existing study bill, would give Duke a sweeping set of changes, some of which they have been seeking from legislators and regulators for years. Together these changes would guarantee Duke billions in extra profits from North Carolina families, small businesses, and industries. This money would then go on to finance more harmful natural gas-burning power plants and pipelines and not enough new solar and wind capacity.
Technically filed as a Proposed Committee Substitute to the existing House Bill 951, the measure drew immediate fire from critics including industry groups, consumer groups, environmental advocates, and Gov. Roy Cooper. In a rare early statement of strong opposition, Gov. Cooper urged legislators to “go back to the drawing board” because the current proposal would “cost ratepayers too much, fall short of clean energy goals, hamper job recruitment and weaken the Utilities Commission, which exists to provide accountability for utility companies.”
“Rarely does anything good come from behind closed doors, and this sweetheart deal Duke Energy wrote for itself is proof,” said our Director of Governmental Relations Dan Crawford. “If legislators pass this bill, they’ll be sticking North Carolinians with the cost of new natural gas infrastructure for decades after those plants are retired. We’re talking up to $5 billion in profits on the backs of the North Carolinians who can least afford it. We should instead bring North Carolinians more solar and wind energy, and help them make their homes and businesses more energy-efficient, so we can meet Gov. Cooper’s Clean Energy Plan goals and save both lives and money.”
“The result of secretive closed-door negotiations in the North Carolina General Assembly that included our politically powerful public utility, Duke Energy, but froze out other stakeholder voices, is a bill that will produce a windfall for Duke Energy shareholders while locking in polluting fossil fuels and failing to meet North Carolina’s clean energy and climate goals. This bill would take away oversight power from the North Carolina Utilities Commission and allow the utility to over-collect hundreds of millions of dollars from its captive customers,” said Gudrun Thompson, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.
After a disastrous hearing in the House Energy Committee on Wednesday, plans to move the bill forward this week have been stalled, with talks of revisions going on behind more closed doors. Stay tuned to track this bill and find out how you can take action to stop it.