Press Release | July 25, 2017

Groups Ask N.C. Utilities Commission to Scrutinize Deals Utilities Made with Themselves

Duke, Dominion would own the pipeline while their subsidiaries would be customers

Chapel Hill, N.C.–The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of the Sierra Club, filed a motion with the North Carolina Utilities Commission urging the Commission to reconsider its approval of contracts that Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress, and Piedmont Natural Gas have signed with Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC for capacity on the pipeline. To justify the need for the $5 billion pipeline to federal regulators, the developers– Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, and Southern Company–point to 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 their filing, SELC and the Sierra Club asked 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.

“As part of their plan to bring more fracked gas into North Carolina, Duke and Piedmont tried to exclude the public by requesting approval for these self-serving contract amendments at the eleventh hour. It's no wonder these corporate polluters went this path — they know the public doesn't want to be saddled with the costs to construct these dirty and dangerous projects, especially when cheaper, clean energy sources are readily available,” said Sierra Club attorney Elly Benson. “Duke and Piedmont cannot be permitted to sidestep legal requirements.  The Commission must scrutinize these self-dealing contracts and determine whether building an expensive, unnecessary pipeline is in the public interest.”

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

SELC’s legal filings on behalf of the Sierra Club are available on the Commission’s website:


About the Southern Environmental Law Center:
The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.

About the Sierra Club:
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Gudrun Thompson

Senior Attorney and Energy Program Leader

Phone: 919-967-1450