Commentary

Jim Warren: Customers should not pay for Duke cleanup

June 26, 2014 

An open letter to House Speaker Thom Tillis:

Dear Speaker Tillis,

As the House of Representatives takes up the coal ash bill, we urge you to take the lead in passing legislation that establishes a clear framework for Duke Energy to clean up all North Carolina sites.

As Superior Court Judge Ridgeway has ordered, all of the sites need to be cleaned up immediately, and you should not allow cleanup to be strung out over the next decade. Cleanup plans need to protect the currently impacted communities, those downstream, communities along transportation routes and any unlucky community where Duke tries to dump coal ash in landfills.

With billions of dollars at stake, you must take conclusive action now, particularly since Duke Energy says its electricity customers are financially responsible for all but the Dan River site.

The Senate bill would allow Duke to charge customers for virtually all coal ash site activities. The bill leaves decisions to the N.C. Utilities Commission, which would almost surely negotiate a backroom settlement with Duke Energy – one harmful to the public – just as it did in the 2012 merger and in every recent rate case.

Duke Energy’s position runs contrary to common sense and public opinion. As shown in our TelOpinion poll released last week, 91 percent of Duke Energy’s customers say Duke should pay for cleaning up all sites.

Duke Energy’s position that its customers must pay is unreasonable. A rate increase for coal ash cleanup would hamstring our economy, making almost everything more expensive. It would particularly hurt those having the hardest time paying their electric bills: the poor, our seniors and small business.

Duke Energy’s shareholders – not customers – must be held wholly responsible for all costs. For many years, Duke Energy has profited from the choice to manage coal waste on the cheap. If Duke believes customers will foot the coal ash bills, it is likely that cleanup costs will escalate unchecked and, like the abandoned Levy County nuclear licensing and construction project in Florida last year, Duke will convert its own failure into a lucrative profit center.

Please make your directive clear: Customers should not pay for Duke Energy’s mistakes.

Thank you for prompt action on this matter.

Jim Warren

Executive director

NC WARN

Durham

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