SELC, Sierra Club ask N.C. officials to scrutinize utility deals claiming need for $5B ACP

SELC, on behalf of the Sierra Club, filed a motion with the North Carolina Utilities Commission urging the commission to reconsider its approval of natural gas contracts for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress, and Piedmont Natural Gas signed contracts with Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC for capacity on the pipeline, which would be owned by their parent companies, Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, and Southern Company. To justify to federal regulators the need for the $5 billion pipeline, the pipeline developers point to these contracts with their own subsidiaries for capacity on the pipeline.

If the $5 billion pipeline is approved, Duke and Piedmont customers in North Carolina will pay for the pipeline, including the 14 percent return that will go to the companies’ shareholders.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers point to contracts with their own subsidiaries as evidence of the need for the costly $5 billion pipeline,” said SELC attorney Gudrun Thompson. “We’re asking the North Carolina Utilities Commission to take a hard look at these self-dealing contracts, which put ratepayers on the hook for a risky, multi-billion-dollar pipeline that is not needed, while Duke’s shareholders receive a guaranteed return.”

Regulatory safeguards put in place in connection with the Duke Energy-Piedmont merger allow for commission oversight of these contracts, to guard against self-dealing or anti-competitive conduct by Duke, Piedmont, and their affiliates. These regulatory conditions required Duke Energy and its affiliate, Piedmont Natural Gas, to provide more time for the public to review and object to their requests for approval of changes to the contracts. In the filing, SELC and the Sierra Club ask the commission to exercise this oversight and take a hard look at the contracts to determine whether they are in the public interest. The Utilities Commission cannot wait until the pipeline is built to exercise its oversight. By the time it is built, it will be too late, and Duke Energy’s captive ratepayers will be locked in to paying for this expensive project.

The pipeline would bring shale gas extracted via hydrofracking through West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina.

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