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This week the NC Justice Center, NC WARN and the NC Housing Coalition challenged the proposed Duke Energy rate hike settlement that the NC Utilities Commission Public Staff is supporting. The organizations are highlighting how unfair the proposal for a 7.21% rate increase is to residential and most business customers, because the rate allocation method is biased to accommodate energy hogging industries.

Energy Hog

These energy hogs – such as Facebook and Google data centers – are already being subsidized by various tax breaks and incentives offered by the state, creating few jobs and benefiting from Duke’s biased rate allocation method.

The organizations also raised concerns about discriminatory practices regarding residential late payment charges and shut off notices, noting how these practices disproportionately impact low-income customers.

The NC Utilities Commission needs to require Duke Energy to develop a rate allocation method that reflects the new demand brought on by the energy hogs, reflecting the need for peak, intermediate and base load capacity through the year. This issue will also become important to Progress Energy customers if the Duke-Progress merger is approved because Progress uses a different, more fair rate allocation, and how the two will be resolved remains to be seen.

 

 

 

 

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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2011 set a record for the number of billion dollar disasters in a single year in the US – 12 – topping nine events in 2009. Two of those were in our state – Hurricane Irene and the April tornadoes, placing NC fourth for 2011. The 12 events, which included extreme drought, wildfires, floods, heat waves, winter storms, tornadoes and hurricanes, caused more than 1,000 deaths and 8,000 injuries.

In a recent online video, National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes said, “In my weather career spanning four decades, I’ve never seen a year quite like 2011… Extreme weather and associated societal impacts have increased in recent years with our changing climate and the nation must be prepared for more frequent extreme weather in the future.”

While every natural disaster cannot be linked to global warming, a warming climate provides more fuel for extreme events. Yet even in the face of 2011’s extreme weather, Republicans and Democrats alike drag their feet to create policies to curb global warming.

Here are some policy and regulatory debates to watch this year. Together these will have short and long term impacts on global warming and the nation’s energy policy. The only question is whether our elected officials will help or hinder our need to move to a clean energy economy. Read More

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As North Carolinians continue to study and debate the issue of whether the state should open up to natural gas “fracking,” here’s another fun byproduct of the process that’s turning up in the news more and more that needs to be factored into the debate: earthquakes.

Check out this story from CNN about new tremblers in, of all places, eastern Ohio.

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On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported its investigation of how Chesapeake Energy has been feverishly working in West Virginia to maximize its ability to drill for natural gas in shale deposits, using business methods that can only be labelled greedy with total disregard for the communities in which the company is operating. Read More

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The nonprofit news site, Pro Publica reported last night on a new draft EPA report  that, for the first time, links the controversial practice of fracking to ground water pollution.

The findings appear to confirm what common sense (and many people who live near fracking sites) already told us — that it would be pretty darned unlikely that the oil and gas industry could inject  millions of gallons of dangerous chemicals underground at high pressure in thousands of sites and not cause harmful groundwater pollution.

Let’s hope the report adds another brick to the wall currently barring the controversial practice in North Carolina. You can read the full EPA report by clicking here.