Get out your wallets: Duke Energy, a behemoth with a market capitalization of more than $62 billion, wants you—not its shareholders—to pay for its coal ash mess.
Coal ash dominated local headlines between 2014, when thirty-nine thousand tons of toxic coal ash contaminated seventy miles of the Dan River, and 2016, when a state toxicologist testified that McCrory administration officials "knowingly told people that their water was safe when we knew it wasn't." Along the way, the Department of Environmental Quality fined Duke $25 million, though after private negotiations that penalty was reduced to just $6.6 million.
But that's just a drop in the bucket. Duke has estimated that cleaning up its thirty-three coal ash sites will cost more than $4 billion. That's where you come in.
In June, Duke proposed a nearly 17 percent rate hike, or about $17.80 a month (and $213 a year) extra for residential customers—an annual total of more than $477 million in additional revenue. Since then, that request has been pared down to about 15 percent, says Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless.
"Recent work to modernize power plants and generate cleaner electricity, responsibly manage coal ash, and respond to major storms is at the heart of Duke Energy Progress's rate increase request," Wheeless writes in an email. "... The cost of these services, including compliance with state and federal regulations that govern our work, is a responsibility we all share as consumers of electricity, so that the public and the environment are protected now and in the future."
This isn't a done deal yet. Hearings on the proposed hikes were supposed to kick off this week, but they've been delayed as the company and government attorneys work on a partial settlement.