by Bob Geary
As expected, the N.C. Utilities Commission today ended its "investigation" of Duke Energy's tactics in the merger with Progress Energy, approving a settlement which IMHO falls short of even slapping Duke E. on the wrist.
On the pinkie finger, maybe.
Joining in the NCUC's unanimous "OK, whatever ... " decision, state Attorney General Roy Cooper — through his consumer protection chief, Kevin Anderson — announced that he, too, is finished investigating and isn't going to do anything either.
Rather, as Cooper's separate settlement with Duke states, the AG wants to "move forward in a positive manner" as he recites what Duke Energy told him, i.e., it "expressly denies that it engaged in any illegal or improper acts."
Cooper did require of Duke Energy that it hire an "independent entity" (I think IndyWeek is available) to take a survey of its customers and report back on their satisfaction with its service. Oh, and the utility is also required to hire an indy entity to survey its employees and report back on how the merger is going.
I'll bet they'll be some serious page-turners :)
Bottom line: Neither the NCUC nor the AG laid a glove on Duke Energy, which is now the big jumbo elephant when it comes to electricity-generation policies in North Carolina. Cooper's our elected regulator. The commission members are our appointed regulators. If they can't regulate Duke Energy, we'll have to depend on the General Assembly to do the job.
And on that amusing note ...