Duke Energy lays out how coal ash settlement could lower bills

NORTH CAROLINA — Duke Energy is laying out how a settlement with North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein over the coal ash cleanup could lower bills.

Last month, Stein announced his office, along with the state utilities commission and the Sierra Club, reached a settlement with the company.

On Wednesday, Duke Energy told Channel 9 a requested rate increase of 6% across all customer groups to pay for coal ash cleanup would be reduced to 1.3%. The requested rate increase for Duke Energy progress customers would drop from 12.3% to 5.5%.

“It’s good news in a way, but I still don’t think we should have to pay for it,” said Larry Mathis, Belmont resident. “We did not create it. We did not approve it. They’ve known for years it was a problem.”

The settlement comes after the attorney general, the Public Staff of the North Carolina Utilities Commission and the Sierra Club challenged an order allowing Duke to pass along clean up costs to customers.

This settlement would reverse that decision and require Duke Energy and customers to share cleanup costs.

Stein said the settlement will save Duke customers more than $1 billion on utility bills over the next 10 years.

“Today’s settlement is a win for every Duke Energy customer,” Stein said. “I have long held that North Carolinians should not bear the full cost of cleaning up coal ash. As a result of today’s settlement, we won’t -- to the tune of more than $1 billion. I’m proud that this result will save customers’ money and grateful for the partnership with the Public Staff and the Sierra Club.”

According to the attorney general, if the settlement is approved, the savings would be immediate.

Duke Energy estimates it will cost about $5 billion for the North Carolina cleanup, which could last through 2038.

The settlement applies to clean up costs from 2015 through 2030. Duke is in the process of closing and clean its coal ash pits.

Stein hopes customers will see a reduction in their bills this year.

Now, the settlement needs to be approved by North Carolina’s utility commission.