Rogers: Duke sorry for criticizing utilities panel

Rogers: Duke sorry for criticizing utilities panel

Credit: Charlotte Observer

Duke CEO Jim Rogers, left, and Progress CEO Bill Johnson appear in the N.C. utility commission hearing.

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by BRUCE HENDERSON / Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on December 11, 2012 at 2:15 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 7:08 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, in a contrite letter to the N.C. Utilities Commission, says Duke’s public criticism of the commission over its investigation of the Duke-Progress Energy merger was inappropriate.

The letter, filed Tuesday, was required under a settlement agreement ending the probe that the commission verbally approved last week.

It repeats the agreement’s wording that Duke doesn’t admit illegal or improper acts but acknowledges “that our activities on this matter have fallen short of the Commission’s understanding of Duke Energy’s obligations” as a regulated utility.

“Duke Energy is a company that can be trusted,” Rogers wrote.

In an apparent effort to mend relations with Duke’s most important state regulators, Rogers also apologized for public criticisms of the commission by Duke.

“I wish we could retract the statements made regarding the manner in which the hearings were conducted and regarding the Commission’s actions,” he wrote. “We cannot undo what was said, but we acknowledge that our public criticism of the Commission was inappropriate.”

In a separate filing, the Utilities Commission said it won’t reconsider its June 29 approval of the merger, ruling against a persistent Duke critic, the Durham-based advocacy group N.C. WARN.

WARN has claimed that Duke withheld information on key issues that could affect the merger’s costs to North Carolina consumers.

Those costs related to the repair or retirement of the crippled Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida and $2 billion Duke expects to spend to upgrade other former Progress-owned nuclear plants. WARN also claims Duke didn’t signal its growing loss of confidence in former Progress CEO Bill Johnson, who was later fired, before the merger closed.

The commission ruling, signed Monday, called the Crystal River claim “completely without merit,” saying N.C. customers won’t be asked to pay costs of a Florida plant.

It said customers of Progress Energy Carolinas, now a Duke subsidiary, would pay any costs of other former Progress nuclear plants that Duke tries to recover through rates.

The commission said WARN’s claims that settlement agreements between Duke, consumer advocates and other parties will increase merger costs and be passed to customers “has no merit.”

The panel said claims about Duke’s pre-merger discomfort with Johnson should be directed to the commission’s separate investigation probing his dismissal. The commission orally voted last week to accept settlement agreements resolving that investigation, but has not yet filed a written order.

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