Duke Energy: Coal ash costs like tire disposal

By Associated Press Updated: November 27, 2017, 5:09 pm

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WNCN) — The country’s largest electric company says charging North Carolina consumers the full, multi-billion-dollar cost of cleaning up coal ash dumps is comparable to tire stores charging customers an extra fee to dispose of an old set of radials.

Duke Energy Progress President David Fountain said Monday the Duke Energy Corp. subsidiary is simply passing along clean-up costs that regulators have dictated.

He spoke at the opening day of hearings before the North Carolina Utilities Commission on whether the company can raise power rates by an average 9.5 percent. Duke Energy Progress wants to charge North Carolina consumers an extra $305 million a year.

When asked why customers should foot the bill for the cleanup, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said, “Well, you know we’ve all benefited from electricity generated by coal. It’s helped to keep our rates affordable and our power reliable for nearly a century.”

The state’s official utilities consumer advocate thinks the company shouldn’t pass along nearly $200 million a year to clean up decades worth of potentially toxic coal ash.

Several organizations and companies, like AARP, had volunteer representatives on hand as Duke Energy asked for the first rate hike in five years.

“I’m opposed to it because so many of our citizens over 50 are having to make really hard decisions about whether or not they can afford to spend money on this, buy medicine, buy food, or whatever. It’s a heartbreaking choice,” said John Merrell, AARP volunteer.

Duke also wants to raise fees from about $11 to $14 a month.

Duke says no customer money would pay for fines or penalties associated with the Dan River spill, shareholders covered that.

Duke’s requesting the rate hike – if approved – go into effect Feb. 1.

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