An advocacy group asked the N.C. Utilities Commission on Thursday to reconsider its approval of the Duke Energy-Progress Energy merger, claiming Duke hid plans to spend more than $2 billion in nuclear plant upgrades.
The commission is investigating the abrupt change in chief executives at Duke following the merger. Durham-based NC WARN argues the commission should reopen hearings to examine broader issues that could increase rates for customers.
The group cites reports that Duke plans to spend $2.2 billion on upgrades to four Progress nuclear plants in the Carolinas and Florida over three years.
Duke spokesman Tom Williams said the figures were compiled for planning purposes only and arent unusually large capital budgets for plants of their size. Duke typically reports only systemwide capital spending, not by plant.
The commission denied WARNs request, on similar grounds, to become a formal party to the chief-executive investigation on July 13.
WARN has criticized Progress for corner-cutting at its nuclear plants, Executive Director Jim Warren said. Duke CEO Jim Rogers has testified the company will pour money into improving them.
Warren said WARN now fears Duke could use spending on the plants as profit centers to bill customers. The group says spending on the plants could more than wipe out the $650 million in post-merger savings Duke has promised to return to Carolinas customers.
Rogers and Duke directors told the commission that concerns over the performance of Progress nuclear fleet, including its shut-down Crystal River plant in Florida, weighed on the boards decision to force the resignation of former Progress CEO Bill Johnson. Crystal River needs repairs that could cost up to $1.3 billion.