Governor Pat McCrory’s ties to Duke Energy are well known here in North Carolina. McCrory worked for Duke for nearly 30 years before becoming governor, but a recent study by the National Institute on Money in State Politics show how deep the utility company’s investment in the Governor truly is. Since 2000, Duke Energy and its employees have given $98,000 to McCrory’s campaigns. To put this in perspective, that’s more than three times the total of what Duke Energy has given to all other sitting Governors combined in the last twelve years.
Their investment is clearly paying off. Under Governor McCrory, DENR’s initial response to the disastrous coal ash spill on the Dan River was to let Duke off the hook for cleanup costs, and fine them $99,000. The administration withdrew the offer after a significant public outcry. Governor McCrory’s most recent answer to the disaster is to propose legislation to strengthen oversight of the coal ash ponds without making Duke move the ponds away from waterways or groundwater reserves. Now the first estimates on the cost for fixing Duke Energy’s coal ash problem have been revealed, and it looks like it’s going to hit you and me right in the wallet.
Duke Energy estimates the cost of the cleanup at $10 billion, and it intends to pass the cost of its mistakes on to its customers. That’s right, after a merger last year that made Duke Energy the largest utility in the country, and helped the company rake in almost $3 billion in profits last year, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good said the cleanup costs “wouldn’t affect the company’s bottom line.” That’s a nice way of saying that they’re going to pass the costs on to us.
According to a state regulator’s estimates that means an extra $20 a month on each of our electric bills. As someone for whom a $20 monthly increase in my electric bill is a significant increase, my first question was “$20 a month for how long?” Well the cost of the cleanup is $10 billion, and Duke has 3.2 million NC customers, so if each of us has an increase of $240 a year on our bill, it will only take… wait for it…. 13 YEARS!!!!! Now that’s a quick back of the envelope calculation that doesn’t take into account how much of the costs Duke’s insurers will cover or the cost of any lawsuits resulting from the spill. That being said I hope everyone is ready to start buying the cheap toilet paper, because we could be paying for this for a long time.
Governor McCrory is nothing if not loyal. If you need proof just look at his steadfast defense of DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos from criticism by her employees, consumers, the federal government and legislators of both parties–and she’s just a fundraiser. Duke Energy has put food on his family’s table and supported his political ambitions for 30 years. In a fight between Duke Energy and its customers here in North Carolina, who do you think the Governor will side with?