North Carolina regulators have proposed new rules that would make clear that public utilities cannot charge customers for political and charitable contributions or lobbying expenses. The rules would apply to electric and gas utilities and large water and sewer systems.
The rulemaking follows a petition last fall from environmental watchdog groups NC WARN and Friends of the Earth. While regulators in the past have disallowed most such expenses, the groups sought a formal rule.
But the utilities commission denied another request from the groups — that utilities be required to file annual reports detailing their lobbying and political expenses.
Jim Warren, executive director of NC WARN, said in a press release: "This is a heavy blow to Duke’s business model. Its executives spend millions annually to buy favor and stifle criticism of the corporation’s role in driving the climate crisis, its coal ash fiascos and constantly raising rates to build unneeded power plants and fracked gas infrastructure such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline."
A Duke spokeswoman said the company already pays for these expenses with shareholder, not customer, funds.
Public comments on the proposed rules are due Sept. 30.