by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
My colleague Don van der Vaart writes today about NC Attorney General Josh Stein’s bizarre settlement announcement this week despite recently declaring a December NC Supreme Court “a major win for electricity consumers on coal ash cleanup costs.”
The article asks many strong questions, so by all means read the whole thing. I’d like to point this portion out, however. It’s jarring.
Remember when Cooper was attorney general running for governor. He had opposed the Coal Ash Management Act specifically because, in his words, it would “allow the public utility to unfairly charge customers for the cost of these actions.” Instead, Cooper urged the legislature explicitly to “prohibit the Commission from authorizing utility rate increases related to these costs.”
He also said that “in this situation it is better to come down on the side of the consumer.”
That was before Cooper became governor and two coal ash cleanup settlements ago. Note that the settlement Stein announced doesn’t cover the additional cleanup costs associated with a December 2019 settlement signed by Cooper’s Department of Environmental Quality under Sec. Michael Regan. That settlement explicitly agreed that an additional $5 billion in cleanup costs should be paid by Duke’s customers.
So for now, consumers appear to be on the hook for almost 90 percent of the $9 billion cleanup costs.
What changed between 2014 and now? Why is it no longer better to come down on the side of consumers?