NC Appeals Court rejects NC WARN’s challenge of Duke-Progress merger

Posted by John Murawski on March 28, 2014 

The N.C. Court of Appeals on Friday rebuffed a Durham activist group’s legal challenge to the 2012 merger between Duke Energy and Progress Energy.

The decision against NC WARN also rejected a merger appeal by the City of Orangeburg, S.C. The appeals court said the N.C. Utilities Commission made a correct and legally sound decision in approving the $32 billion corporate merger.

“It is not this Court’s role to second-guess the determination of the Commission where its findings and conclusions are supported by the evidence,” the appellate court ruled.

The pair of merger opponents was in the minority among 37 organizations that intervened in, and largely supported, the merger that turned Duke into the nation’s largest electric utility.

NC WARN alleged that Charlotte-based Duke and Raleigh-based Progress didn’t address the merger’s risks and that it would not be beneficial to state residents, particularly the poor. The appeals court said the Utilities Commission was right to conclude that $650 million in fuel savings and operating savings from eliminating 1,860 jobs would benefit the public.

NC WARN also objected to the company’s $15 million contribution to benefit low-income households as too low. The Durham group said Duke should donate $270 million.

Orangeburg officials objected because they feared the merger would make it harder for the South Carolina town to get the best deals on wholesale power. The court said that Orangeburg, which has a long-term contract to buy wholesale power from S.C. Electric & Gas through 2022, lacks legal standing to appeal the utility merger.

NC WARN said it plans to appeal the appeals court’s ruling to the N.C. Supreme Court. This is one of two court appeals NC WARN has filed against the merger and is awaiting a second ruling from the N.C. Appeals Court.

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