Duke Energy actions leave some fuming

Feb 27, 2014

Duke Energy has been making headlines lately with a number of stories that are leaving customers heated.

On Feb. 3, as many North Carolina residents were trying to scrape together enough money to pay hundreds of dollars for their January energy bill, Duke Energy announced that 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash were dumped into the Dan River from its retired power plant in Eden.

This was an “I told you so” moment for environmental groups that have sued Duke and others in an effort to get them to relocate ash stored close to waterways. And this couldn’t have been a surprise to Duke since it has closed down 14 North Carolina coal-fired power plants where groundwater contamination has been found.

Due to a rate increase and its recent merger with Progress Energy, Duke’s soaring profits made headlines Feb. 18. The Associated Press reported Duke had a 58 percent increase in fourth-quarter profits — $688 million compared to $435 million during the same quarter last year.

And then on Wednesday, Feb. 26, reports surfaced that Duke Energy, along with other Fortune 500 Companies like General Electric, Boeing and Verizon, has not paid any federal income taxes in five years. Gas and electric utility companies enjoy the lowest effective federal tax rate of 2.9 percent, mostly because they can claim accelerated depreciation on their capital investments.

Not only did Duke not pay any taxes, it received $299 million in tax rebates while earning $9 billion in profits during that period.

So let’s review — Duke pays no taxes, receives plenty of rebates, continues to raise our utility rates and dumps coal ash into our water supply. If that isn’t enough to get consumers fuming, we don’t know what will.

Those soaring profits are hard to stomach when residents in Haywood County have been donating spare change to make sure our most vulnerable citizens can afford heating costs in the winter.

We are completely in favor of being “business friendly” in the state of North Carolina, and we do not underestimate the number of jobs Duke provides in this state and many others. But in return, we do expect our utility company to be good stewards of our money and our natural resources.

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