In an important new ruling, the state Utilities Commission (NCUC) has made it tougher for Duke Energy and other public utilities to charge ratepayers for the costs of their lobbying, advertising, and other political expenditures.
The order (PDF) came in response to a public petition for rulemaking initiated in November 2018. Two citizen environmental groups asked NCUC to set new rules requiring the disclosure of lobbying, advertising, and other political expenditures by regulated public utilities, and barring them from charging those expenses to ratepayers. The final ruling was delayed by NCUC’s decision to designate Duke Energy, other regulated utilities, the NCUC Public Staff, and the state Attorney General’s office as parties to the case. The final rules go into effect for new utility rate filings beginning September 1.
NCUC also clarified rules on advertising expenses to prevent costs intended to affect political campaigns or advocate for public issue policies from being charged to ratepayers. The disclosure requirements include more detailed tracking of the time and costs which go into utility representatives’ discussions with executive agencies, in order to weed out the costs of issue lobbying there.