Protesters rally against Duke Energy rate increase - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Protesters rally against Duke Energy rate increase

Dozens of people came out to the New Hanover County Courthouse to protest a proposed rate increase from Duke Energy on Thursday night. (Source: WECT) Dozens of people came out to the New Hanover County Courthouse to protest a proposed rate increase from Duke Energy on Thursday night. (Source: WECT)
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) -

Dozens of people came out to the New Hanover County Courthouse to protest a proposed rate increase from Duke Energy on Thursday night. 

Duke Energy asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to consider an increase that would raise the average customer's bill by about $19. 

The NCUC hosted the final of five different public hearings across the state about the increase on Thursday. 

Members of the Sierra Club, Cape Fear River Watch and other protesters held a press conference before the public hearing.

"This is a bad deal for the public," said Luis Rodriguez, member of the Sierra Club. "This is a bad deal for seniors, people on fixed incomes, and disabled people, people that are struggling every day already to make ends meet. Having Duke reach into their pockets for that extra $20 a month is going to hurt a lot of folks."

Many of the protesters said Duke wants to raise costs to help pay for spilled coal ash cleanup. It's a mistake they think is the responsibility of the power company, not customers. 

"For decades they refused to be responsible corporate citizens," said Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear Riverkeeper. "Now that they are finally forced to clean up what is a pretty toxic and pretty treacherous substance that has been leaching into rivers and groundwater, the water that we all drink, they suddenly realize they don't want to pay for it."

Jeff Brooks, spokesperson for Duke Energy, disagreed and said the increase was needed for improvements for everyone.

"Some of that electricity was generated by coal, and so as users of electricity, we have a shared responsibility to pay for their costs and also to comply with state and federal laws," Brooks said. "Those costs are being included because of those requirements and because of that compliance, but we don't take a rate increase lightly. We understand that for any customer, it has an impact."

Brooks said the NCUC should decide on the increase sometime in November. He also said if it's approved, the increase will go into effect next year.

Rodriguez said anyone who wasn't at the public hearing can leave a comment here. 

Copyright 2017 WECT. All rights reserved.

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