From The Richmond County Daily Journal: Duke customers say rate hike ‘not fair’
The North Carolina state legislature had an opportunity to protect consumers from coal ash clean up costs and they refused. The General Assembly passed a coal ash “cleanup” bill that allows Duke Energy to leave coal ash in 10 of its 14 unlined pits across the state. What’s more, the bill allows Duke to pass the costs of cleaning up those pits onto it's customers. Duke could not even ask for a coal ash clean up rate hike on customers if the state legislature had not allowed it. Our state lawmakers sided with the big power company instead of North Carolina citizens.
Members of the North Carolina Utilities Commission sat in Courtroom A of the old courthouse downtown Tuesday to listen to concerned Duke Energy customers of Richmond and surrounding counties in regards to the company’s proposed 14.9 percent rate increase.
The potential increase, which would be seen in customer’s electric bills, didn’t seem to sit well with those attending who voiced their opinions under sworn testimony.
Tom Clark, of Wagram, first spoke about Duke Energy being a huge polluter in the past and said what many would later comment on — it’s not the customers’ obligations to pay for the company’s mistakes.
“It’s real easy to give money away when it’s not your money,” Clark said, referring to Duke representative David McNeill’s prior comments about the company’s spending on local charities. “If you’re gonna make the money, then suck it up and solve that problem.”
The problem Clark is referencing to is what’s been done with past coal ash spills in the state. According to the Associated Press, Duke Energy wants an extra $477 million a year, with an 11 percent return on a measure commonly described as potential profit margin.
Lois Jones, a Hamlet resident and Duke customer for more than 30 years asked the Utilities Commission to consider doing away with the rate increase, saying the burden always falls on the people of the community.
“We have to eat, and we have to have lights, but I’ve been following the coal ash thing for years. It’s always denial at first, and then the next thing it’s a full-blown problem that no one knew about,” Jones said. “It has to come to a point where the company is gonna have to think about the shareholders and the customers. If these companies never pay for these mistakes that they are knowingly making then that’s a lot. Eighteen dollars a month (increase) might not sound like a lot, but to a lot of people, that’s a lot. I think it’s unfair.”
Lee County resident Keely Wood asked the commission why, if Duke Energy’s own insurance company wouldn’t pay for the clean-up, then why should its customers.