South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson’s office has issued a scathing opinion rebuking Charlotte-based Duke Energy for its repeated attempts to make South Carolina residents pay for up to a third of the costs associated with a massive buildout of infrastructure in neighboring North Carolina.
According to Wilson’s office, Duke’s bid is riddled with constitutional concerns – rendering it an “invalid extraterritorial law.”
Readers will recall our news outlet exclusively exposed this “taxation without representation” scam back in November. Last month, we reported on the massive price tag associated with this proposal – which is part of Duke’s ongoing effort to make consumers in both states pay for its failure to responsibly manage its energy mix.
Duke is in the process of constructing a ton of new natural gas assets as a “bridge” from coal-fired power to more renewable energy sources.
Do I support such a plan? Yes … but the way Duke and its bought-and-paid-for politicians and regulators are going about it is grossly unfair to ratepayers (especially South Carolina ratepayers, whose elected representatives have had absolutely no say in the matter).
Duke is planning to cut the natural life expectancy of these natural gas assets nearly in half in order to meet its goal of “carbon neutrality” by 2050. This would create an estimated $5 billion worth of “stranded assets,” according to one recent report. The company is basically trying to saddle ratepayers in both states with a 30-year mortgage on something they are only going to use for fifteen years.
North Carolina was dumb enough to fall for this scam … and now its leaders are trying to rope the much-maligned South Carolina Public Service Commission (SCPSC) into participating in a “joint hearing” with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC).
Why? So that both states can “fully share” the costs of the new North Carolina law … even though no one in South Carolina has approved it.
As I noted in a recent post, the abject subservience of Palmetto State politicians like governor Henry McMaster when it comes to Duke Energy has put South Carolina ratepayers in this untenable position.
Luckily, Wilson’s office was not in a subservient mood. In fact, its ruling wasn’t just a shot across Duke’s bow … it was nothing short of a body blow to the utility’s latest rate-hiking scheme.
“It is highly questionable that the commission possesses the requisite authority and jurisdiction to convene such a ‘joint hearing,’” the attorney general’s opinion – written by solicitor general Robert D. Cook – noted. “We think that this proposal stretches South Carolina law and federal constitutional law past the breaking point. Indeed, rather than seeking a constitutionally authorized compact between the two states, such a ‘joint proceeding’ raises significant constitutional concerns.”
Cook was just getting warmed up, too.
Specifically, he warned that such a commission would “run the risk of usurping the legislative powers of the General Assembly, and could well violate the state and federal Constitutions.”
Cook also shredded the illusion that this “partnership” was anything other than an attempt by a powerful corporation to make two states beholden to a law that only one of them passed.
“The proposal for a ‘joint hearing’ is not really ‘joint’ at all,” he wrote. “It is a proposal made to the South Carolina Public Service Commission by Duke Energy. No request from North Carolina or the NCUC has been made, as far as we are aware.”
Cook also called out Duke for making “arbitrary and capricious” claims in (correctly) characterizing this debate as “whether the (SCPSC) should require South Carolina ratepayers to pay for expenses caused by another state’s laws.”
“This argument is essentially one of taxation without representation, based upon the extraterritorial application of a North Carolina statute to South Carolina customers with a resulting rate increase,” Cook wrote. “It is the same argument in essence that the colonists made with great force against King Georgie III and Parliament at the time of the American Revolution.”
That’s right … Cook just compared Duke to eighteenth century British tyrants.
Even more specifically, Cook made it abundantly clear what would happen if Palmetto State regulators usurped legislative authority and chose to enter into such an arrangement.
“We fail to see the benefit to South Carolina customers in applying a North Carolina statute to the development of a carbon plan and imposing that plan upon South Carolina ratepayers,” Cook concluded. “Rather than a benefit, such a plan, using North Carolina law, may well result in a rate increase upon Duke’s South Carolina customers.”
THE OPINION …
(Via: S.C. Attorney General’s Office)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
(Click to view)
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Washington Senators’ lid pictured above).
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