Officials: Electricity Rates Will Go Up To Pay For Coal Ash Clean Up Costs
The Sanford Herald today quotes multiple officials, both from the state and Duke Energy that indicate that costs from the coal ash clean up will be passed on to customers by way of higher electricity rates. This comes on the heels of the announcement by the Coal Ash Management Commission that they also expected costs to be passed on to consumers. From the Sanford Herald article,
While many Lee County residents have raised environmental and health concerns regarding Duke Energy's proposed coal ash storage site off Post Office Road, local and state officials expect that there will be financial costs associated with the project as well.
"As a businessperson, you never want to pass things on to your shareholders that you don't have to," said Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack. "They'll be trying to minimize the amount of impact the coal ash disposal has on their shareholders, which means rate increases."
And Lee County Manager John Crumpton said that, even for a multibillion-dollar company like Duke Energy, the costs associated with transporting and storing more than 100 million tons of coal ash represent a huge expense.
"They will try to pass that rate increase along to everybody," Crumpton said. "The [North Carolina Utilities Commission] looks at cost, realizing that companies have to generate profit for their shareholders. So whatever this costs will eventually get turned back to the taxpayers. I don't care what anybody says or anybody legislates."
As far as just how much Duke Energy customers can expect to see their rates increase, it's too early to be sure according to James McLawhorn, director of the Electric Division of the Public Staff, which represents the interests of consumers to the N.C. Utilities Commission.
"We would review any request that Duke would ultimately make," McLawhorn said, "and then make a recommendation to the commission as to how we thought it should be treated. ... Until [Duke Energy has] actually spent some money and filed with the commission to recover that, there's really no way to say how it would be handled."
That Duke Energy will file a request with the commission seems certain.
"The work to close ash basins is considered part of our operational costs," said Duke Energy Communications Specialist Jennifer Jabon in a statement. "Costs related to power plants are a part of the business of generating and delivering energy to our customers and are included in the rates paid by customers."
Costs associated with the project, Crumpton said, are compounded by the fact that there is no Duke Energy power plant in Lee County like the Cape Fear power plant in Chatham County.