Under the Dome

Duke Energy foes seek sanctions

UPDATED: A Durham-based clean energy advocacy group with a long history of being a thorn in the side of Duke Energy launched a new attack on the giant utility Wednesday.

Invoking rarely used legal underpinnings in the general statutes and the state Constitution, N.C. WARN and six other environmental, labor and religious organizations petitioned the attorney general to use his authority to force Duke Energy to amend its corporate charter due to “a persistent pattern of criminal activity” harming the environment.

They want to force the company to phase out its coal-fired power plants in five years, stop blocking competition, and be prohibited from making political contributions or attempting to influence the political process. It is illegal for corporations to contribute to political campaigns but they can contribute through political action committees, as Duke Energy does. It is also legal for companies to advocate on behalf of their interests.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Roy Cooper said the office would review the “emergency complaint,” which runs 78 pages with attachments. A spokeswoman for Duke Energy said it was a “nuisance filing” that wastes public resources.

“This is the latest in a string of merit-less allegations and gimmicks by N.C. WARN that are consistently rejected by regulators and an informed public,” Paige Sheehan said. “… Duke Energy does more to advance renewable energy and environmental protection in a day than NC WARN has in its lifetime.”

She cited a company report to back that up: http://sustainabilityreport.duke-energy.com.

The advocates also announced at a news conference in Raleigh they will begin a statewide TV ad campaign and outreach effort. Organizers said they would spend about $200,000 in a first round of advertising.