Environmental groups want transparency with NC energy legislation

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Environmental groups launched a campaign Monday calling for greater transparency about potential energy legislation that Duke Energy leaders are optimistic will pass, but that the public has not yet seen.

The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters Foundation and the Natural Resources Defense Council are airing ads on cable in Raleigh and Charlotte as well as online calling attention to closed-door talks that have been underway related to the potential bill.

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“We’ve heard something is going on. We know there’s secret negotiations going on behind closed doors and that’s about it,” said Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations for the NCLCV. “They need to be honest with the ratepayers about what they’re trying to do.”

In a conference call with investors earlier this month, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good said company leaders have been meeting with state lawmakers about “comprehensive energy legislation” and said she’s optimistic there’s “broad support” for that.

It’s not clear what specific changes Duke is advocating to include in a bill.

“We remain optimistic for comprehensive energy legislation this year aligned with our shared goals of generation transition and regulatory reforms needed to enable that change,” she said.

The company has set a goal of net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

“These shared objectives include North Carolina’s clean energy transition as well as the regulatory reforms that provide for timely recovery of these investments,” she said.

Following that conference call, Republicans in the House filed a bill entitled “Study Emerging Energy Generation.” As it’s written, it would allocate $100,000 for a study based at UNC-Chapel Hill, but could be amended later to include policy changes.

CBS 17 reached out to several House Republicans about the discussions but none replied.

Good noted in 2017 when another significant bill passed related to energy policy, it wasn’t introduced until June and was signed by Gov. Roy Cooper (D) the next month. CBS 17 reached out to the governor’s office to ask if they’re involved in these discussions but did not get a reply.

In an email to CBS 17, Grace Rountree, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, did not elaborate Monday on any specific policy changes the company is seeking.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with policymakers and stakeholders representing diverse interests to develop a balanced energy transition plan for North Carolina that moves us away from coal and protects the reliability that our customers depend on, secures jobs, supports the economic vitality of communities and maintains affordable rates for all,” she wrote. “The timing and approach to advance energy legislation in North Carolina is in the hands of legislative leadership.”

Crawford said in his 15 years of lobbying at the General Assembly it’s been unusually difficult to find out information about the discussions, saying they’ve been among the most secretive.

“We just want Duke to be held accountable and more open with what they’re trying to do moving forward with energy in North Carolina,” he said. “It’s a mystery.”

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