AG to File Appeal, Says that Utilities Should Pass Tax Savings to Consumers
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December 10, 2014

Power utilities should pass on their tax savings to consumers, says North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Cooper filed a notice of appeal this week, stating that he intends to ask the North Carolina Court of Appeals to overturn a decision by the North Carolina Utilities Commission that allowed utilities to hold on to the savings rather than lowering consumer rates.

"Lower overall taxes paid by utilities should mean more money in consumers' pockets," Cooper said in a release. "Instead, utilities can pocket the tax savings while most families, small businesses and other utility customers see higher taxes on their power bills, and that's not right."

The lowered income taxes were a result of state law changes. Passing on the savings to consumers, Cooper argues, would have offset tax increases consumers saw as a result of other state laws.

Dominion North Carolina Power and Public Service Company of North Carolina (PSNC) challenged a May ruling by the Commission that found it had the authority to reduce utility rates to reflect the income tax changes. In October, the Commission reversed its decision and without prior notice, or further hearing, decided that it could not lower utility rates.

According to the filing, the Commission violated state law by changing its decision without giving proper notice or any opportunity for a hearing or briefing, and by using the same law and facts cited in its May decision to reach a different conclusion in October, without any change in circumstance or public interest.

Dominion is currently the only utility that says it intends to keep the proceeds.

Feds Approve Duke Purchase of Power Assets

Duke Energy Progress will buy back power plant ownership from 32 eastern North Carolina towns in a $1.2 billion deal approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week.

The towns, including Apex, Clayton, Wake Forest, Wilson, Smithfield and Kinston, bought shares in the power plants more than 30 years ago, but saw their debt increase significantly after a 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Residents in these towns pay $200 to $600 more annually than other customers.

The power company will continue to sell electricity directly to the towns, which will have to approve new energy rates, delaying the anticipated savings.

The deal will still have to be approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission.