Consumers and Advocates Ask NC Utilities Commission to Reject Duke’s Half-Billion Dollar Rate Hike

 

For Immediate Release:

September 14, 2017

Asheville — Duke Energy customers and environmental, consumer and welfare advocates are calling on the North Carolina Utilities Commission to reject a proposal by Duke Energy to make consumers pay for the company’s coal ash cleanup through higher bills and fees. Duke customers can make their opposition known at a public hearing of the Utilities Commission on Wednesday, September 27 at 7 p.m. at the Buncombe County Courthouse.

Duke Energy’s proposal would amount to a $477.5 million increase in the amount that Duke can collect from its ratepayers each year. The typical residential customer would see the fixed charge that they pay every month, regardless of the amount of energy that they use, nearly double from $11.13 to $19.50. Their electric rates would increase on average by 16.7%, approximately $18 more per month.

Customers and advocates oppose the plan because it puts the entire burden for costs related to the cleanup of toxic coal ash on the customer. Of the nearly half-billion dollar increase that Duke is requesting of the Commission, $311 million is for recovery for costs spent excavating coal ash at its Asheville, Mayo, Roxboro, Cape Fear, Lee, Robinson, Sutton and Weatherspoon facilities in 2015 and 2016. Duke estimates that its coal ash cleanup costs at those plants will total more than $2.5 billion over the next 40 years.

Opponents of the rate hike are confident that they are on solid legal ground in asking for the Utilities Commission to reject the rate hike and fee increase. North Carolina law only allows for a utility’s cost to be paid by customers if they are reasonable and prudent. Duke Energy’s own insurance providers have refused to cover costs associated with Duke’s coal ash liabilities, citing Duke’s failure “to take reasonable measures to avoid and/or mitigate” the damages resulting from coal ash disposal. In 2015, Duke Energy pled guilty to violating environmental laws related to coal ash pollution from five of its North Carolina power plants.

“Coal ash has resulted in the contamination of lakes, rivers and drinking water supplies,” explains Hartwell Carson, the French Broad Riverkeeper at MountainTrue, a western North Carolina nonprofit that led the fight for cleaner energy and the cleanup of Duke’s coal ash pits. “North Carolina residents have already paid a heavy price, and now Duke Energy wants to bill us for their negligence and mismanagement, too.”

Present in coal ash are heavy metals and toxic chemicals that can be harmful to humans and wildlife. Arsenic poisoning can lead to heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases and diabetes. Cobalt has been linked to cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, blood poisoning, liver injury and thyroid problems. Chromium is a carcinogen, and hexavalent chromium was the subject of the movie Erin Brockovich, which was based on the true story of groundwater contamination in Hinkley, California by Pacific Gas Electric Company.

MountainTrue and other advocates are encouraging members of the public who have concerns about Duke Energy’s proposal to attend the public hearing of the Utilities Commission on Wednesday, September 27 at 7 p.m. at the Buncombe County Courthouse.

 

Media Contact:

Karim Olaechea

Communications Director, MountainTrue

E: karim@mountiantrue.org; C: 415.535.9004

 

About MountainTrue

MountainTrue is Western North Carolina’s premier advocate for environmental stewardship. We are committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work, and play. Our members protect our forests, clean up our rivers, plan vibrant and livable communities, and advocate for a sound and sustainable future for all residents of WNC. MountainTrue is home to the French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper, Watauga Riverkeeper and the Broad River Alliance, the protectors and defenders of their respective watersheds.

 

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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.