RALEIGH, N.C. — A bill drafted by Duke Energy behind closed doors with legislators was unveiled on Tuesday. The bill would mandate the construction of 3,500 megawatts of new fracked gas plants, locking North Carolina into dirty energy generation for decades. The bill also decreases utility transparency and allows Duke to increase customers’ rates for three consecutive years at a time, requires customers to pay a $50 million subsidy to Duke for a new nuclear reactor permit, and would leave customers paying billions for Duke’s bad investments. This bill is in stark contrast to Gov. Roy Cooper's goals to address the climate crisis and transition North Carolina to a clean energy economy.
The bill would also reduce oversight of Duke Energy, one of the largest and most polluting utilities in the country. The bill limits the authority of the N.C. Utilities Commission and restricts how it reviews energy plans by Duke Energy and other utilities. Under Duke Energy’s plan, some communities now experiencing pollution from coal plants would continue to be burdened by living next to fracked gas plants, while allowing less opportunity for public input. The bill draft will be inserted into an existing legislative vehicle, HB 951, and taken up for discussion before the House Energy and Public Utilities Committee today, Thursday, June 17 at noon.
In response to the legislation, Drew Ball, State Director of Environment North Carolina stated:
For the sake of our climate and communities across our state, we know that we must shift our economy to 100% clean and renewable energy. Instead, this bill would make that transition harder by mandating our reliance on dangerous fossil fuels for decades. By reducing public input and transparency in the ratemaking process, and failing to ensure adequate protections for ratepayers, the legislation is simply a bad deal for North Carolinians.
Josh McClenney, Energy Democracy Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices, stated: “After years of working with diverse stakeholders across the state, Duke Energy has decided to turn its back on North Carolina families, and worked behind closed doors with Republican lawmakers to draft a bill that lines the pockets of shareholders at the expense of residential ratepayers. This is not good public policy.”
Rev. Susannah Tuttle, Director of NC Interfaith Power & Light stated: “I am extremely disappointed that the lack of transparency throughout the process of writing this legislation has culminated into a bill drafted by industry for industry, with no respect or care for North Carolina’s families and especially children who will inherit the pollution and environmental disasters of energy policies that do not prioritize fossil-free climate solutions.
Will Harlan, senior representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in the Carolinas, stated: “It’s no surprise that Duke Energy, one of the biggest and dirtiest utilities in the country, would support a bill that’s just as big and dirty. Not only was it drafted secretly behind closed doors, but it requires construction of two unnecessary fracked gas plants and lets Duke keep burning 4,000 megawatts of coal, polluting our air, water and climate for decades to come. And even as North Carolinians are struggling to recover from the pandemic economy, this bill would let Duke increase customers’ rates for three consecutive years at a time, with very little public oversight or transparency. Corporate polluters shouldn’t be able to make their own rules, and communities shouldn’t be forced to pay for their greed. This bill should be scrapped so we can start over with an equitable, transparent process that prioritizes clean energy resources and the public health of everyone in North Carolina.”
Cathy Buckley, Director, Statewide Organizing, NC Alliance to Protect Our People and the Places We Live stated: “HB951 removes decision-making from our NC Utilities Commissioners, experts who understand the intricacies of the electricity market and the needs of ratepayers. Out of a secretive process, led by Duke Energy, that barred our elected Democratic representatives, comes a set of rules that benefits the NC utilities. It’s not good legislation, but a nice ‘thank you’ gift from the members of the NC General Assembly who have received on the order of millions of dollars of campaign contributions from Duke Energy.”
Ethan Blumenthal, CEO, Good Solar Organization and E2 Southeast Chapter Director stated: “This bill would effectively bar nonprofit organizations and marginalized communities from participating in the renewable energy economy for years into the future by ensuring that anyone who cannot afford the upfront costs themselves pays a premium for the right to access clean resources. The people who most need help reducing utility costs are all but locked out. After years of diverse stakeholder processes, it is disheartening to see the resulting legislation ignore the needs of so many North Carolinians.