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Duke Energy rate hike doesn’t follow law, AG Cooper says

Release date: 4/18/2014

Utilities Commission must heed earlier Supreme Court ruling, AG argues

Raleigh: A Duke Energy rate hike struck down by the North Carolina Supreme Court last year but put back in place by the state’s Utilities Commission is now before the court once more.

Attorney General Roy Cooper filed a brief late Thursday asking the court to intervene once again on behalf of North Carolina consumers against rising utility rates.

“The court has already ruled once that consumers must be taken into account when setting utility profits but it still hasn’t happened,” Cooper said.  “Even when given a second chance to get it right, the Commission didn’t really consider consumers and approved the exact same rate hike.”

In a ruling issued in April 2013, the North Carolina Supreme Court agreed with Cooper’s assessment that state law (NCGS § 62-133) requires the Utilities Commission to determine the impact on consumers before setting an allowable profit margin and agreeing to raise rates.

The court order reversed the decision by the Utilities Commission to grant the rate hike and told it to look at the case again.  The Utilities Commission declined to hear any new evidence in the matter and instead granted Duke Energy the same rate increase and shareholder profit as before: a 7.2 rate hike for Duke Energy customers and a 10.5 percent return on equity for shareholders.

Cooper is asking the court to make sure the Utilities Commission properly follows the law this time and truly considers the impact on consumers.

Cooper is also fighting an additional rate request by Duke Energy which could raise consumers’ rates by 4.5 percent for the first two years and then 5.1 percent after that, as well as a 7.5 percent rate increase for Duke Energy Progress, formerly Progress Energy.  

Media contact:  Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413