Duke Energy’s shameless dodge
Based on his testimony yesterday at his company’s rate hike hearing before the state Utilities Commission, that’s roughly the year in which Duke Energy exec Brett Carter wants us to believe his company operates.
As we’ve reported previously in coverage of the proposed Duke-Progress merger, Duke isn’t much interested in using any of its billions in resources and income to help low income consumers it serves.
Yesterday, however, Carter took the company’s unwillingness to do anything meaningful to help lower the bills of poor customers to new and remarkable depths. When pressed during his testimony to explain why Duke couldn’t establish somewhat lower electricity rates for low income ratepayers (all they’ve offered up is a pitiful, one-time “charitable” contribution), Carter offered the following lame excuse (as reported by the Charlotte Observer):
“That was a conversation that we had,” Carter said, but added, “the administration of providing that would be outside the purview of what we could do.”
Translation from “Bureaucratese” to English: “We’re not gonna do that because it’s too big of a hassle and we don’t feel like bothering.”
Well, pardon us Brett, but that’s a crock of bull.
First of all, your company is a public utility that exists to serve the public interest.
More to the point, however, your claim that “waaahh, keeping track of all those poor people would be too hard” is patently and demonstrably false.
Right now, something like 35 separate telephone companies in North Carolina (all of them with less income and resources than the giant your represent) manage to do just that; they provide discounted phone service to people who are poor enough to be eligible for a number of low income support programs. Sure, the system is imperfect and a hassle and they’d probably rather not be bothered, but they do it anyway.
At some point a few years back, some courageous public officials told the phone companies: “We know you don’t like it, but tough. This is the 21st Century– figure out a way. You”ll still make boatloads of money. So get over it and do something for someone other than your overpaid CEO’s for a change.”
This is precisely what the North Carolina Utilities Commission ought to tell Duke — “This is 2011, guys. Figure out a way, get it done and consider yourself lucky we let you continue to make the outrageous profits and salaries you make.”