Duke Energy is at it again.
The company that brought us the Dan River coal ash spill is asking the North Carolina Utilities Commission for approval to raise rates for its residential customers in North Carolina by more than 16 percent.
But the company already brings in billions in profits every year, and much of that is extracted from ratepayers who have no say in who they pay to power their homes. One of the largest electric utilities in the country, Duke Energy has a monopoly on electricity sales in North Carolina.
The requested rate hikes will cover the required cleanup of coal ash at sites across the state, sunk costs into a nuclear plant in South Carolina that is unlikely to be completed and the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline — a $5 billion project that could lead the company’s to increase our bills again in the future.
Instead of raising our rates to make amends for the Clean Water Act crimes exposed in the aftermath of the Dan River spill, the company should foot the bill to responsibly clean up and process the toxic coal ash at every site rather than pushing the “cap in place” method and leaving ash in the largest impoundments in the state. It should also move forward with providing a source of clean water for the hundreds of families who have relied on bottled water for more than 800 days.
To make matters worse, Duke Energy executives want to nearly double the “fixed charge” — the amount you pay just to be connected to the grid — from $11.13 to $19.50. This change would disproportionately impact the folks who use the least power. Overall, the rate hike would have an outsized impact on low-wage workers, seniors on fixed incomes and communities of color.
A Duke Energy radio ad that recently hit the airwaves touts the company’s steps toward a “smarter energy future” such as investing in solar and responsibly cleaning up coal ash to ensure energy costs are affordable.
But, as has been the case, what the company says it different than what it does. And North Carolinians are taking notice and joining together at five announced hearings in September and October and others that will come later in 2017 or early 2018.
A diverse coalition including environmental organizations, economic and racial justice groups, and directly impacted communities are ready to show that North Carolinians are opposed to Duke’s rate hike request. Because we’re already paying a price for Duke Energy’s mess: toxic pollution in our waterways and drinking water that is threatening our health and well being. It’s time for Duke to be held accountable.