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Across Appalachia

Duking It Out: CEO Retires, Rates Increase and other shorts

By Matt Grimley
Under a proposed settlement with the N.C. Utilities Commission and the N.C. Public Staff, Duke Energy President and CEO Jim Rogers will retire from his positions at the end of 2013.

The agreement, announced late November, would resolve all issues involved in the commission’s investigation of Duke’s $32 billion merger with Progress Energy this past summer. Immediately after their merger, Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson was terminated, and he received as much as $44.4 million in severance, pension and benefits.

The commission was investigating whether Duke intentionally misled regulators by maintaining that Johnson would run the combined company.

Rogers, who replaced Johnson, is not required to retire until Dec. 31, 2013, when his current contract expires. The Duke board will try to choose a new CEO as early as July under the proposed agreement.

As part of the settlement, Duke’s North Carolina customers will receive an extra $25 million in fuel and fuel-related cost savings beyond the $650 million that the company already promised with the merger. Duke will also be required to appoint two new board members, one by April and one by December 2013.

November was a busy month for the utility. On Nov. 1, Duke Energy posted a net gain of $594 million — a better-than-expected quarterly profit and up from $472 million a year earlier. A few weeks later, the N.C. Supreme Court heard arguments over Duke’s 7.2 percent electricity rate increase, which went into effect last February. Progress will seek their own double-digit rate increase next spring.

The N.C. Attorney General’s Office has said that Duke’s proposed settlement with the Utilities Commision won’t affect their own investigation into the merger.

Relicensing The Dries’ Dam

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has requested that several additional studies be done as part of the relicensing process for the Hawks Nest Hydro project on The Dries of the New River in Fayette County, W. Va..
The project would divert 10,000 cubic feet per second of water from a five-mile stretch of river in order to generate 25-cycle power for West Virginia Alloys, Inc., a local smelting plant.

In its Nov. 20 filing, FERC requested that the hydro project’s operator, Brookfield Renewable Energy Group, address in its proposed plan the need for studies of flow, fisheries, threatened and endangered species, and recreation.
In particular, the agency requested that Brookfield determine the acceptable minimum and optimal flows needed for whitewater boating between the dam and the powerhouse at Glen Ferris.

The operator will file its proposed study plan by Jan. 5. Stakeholders will meet to discuss it in early February and will be able to submit their comments until early April. The company will then submit a revised study plan, with another comment period, before FERC hands down its decision on the required studies on June 4.

Recycling Plans
After the closure of a 100-year-old sorting plant in March, the Recycling Task Force of Kanawha County, W.Va., is examining programs of similar-sized municipalities including Raleigh County, N.C., and Roanoke, Va., for ideas to revive their struggling recycling program.

This Solar Home Goes to Market
Deltec Homes, a leading sponsor of Appalachian State University’s Solar Homestead Project, has signed an agreement with the university to market and manufacture the student-designed, award-winning, net-zero energy home.

Fracking A Nuclear Neighbor
Pennsylvania authorities granted Chesapeake Energy a permit to drill for natural gas with hydraulic fracturing methods less than one mile from the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station in Shippingport, Pa.

EPA Unveils “How’s My Waterway” Tool
Just enter your town at watersgeo.epa.gov/mywaterway/, or let the tool find your location, and you can determine which of your local waterways are polluted and what’s being done about it.

Granting Justice
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is soliciting grant proposals for non-profit organizations seeking to conduct research, provide education and develop solutions to health and environmental issues in communities overburdened by pollution. Deadline Jan. 7. For more information visit: epa.gov/environmentaljustice/grants/ej-smgrants.html

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