With former Duke Energy executive Pat McCrory now sworn in as governor of North Carolina, Duke Energy could be more powerful than ever — and that’s not a good thing.
The company’s controversial merger with Progress Energy has been settled, making Charlotte-based Duke Energy the largest electric utility in the country. The environmental advocacy group N.C. WARN estimates Duke now controls roughly 97 percent of North Carolina’s electricity.
An analysis [PDF] by Democracy North Carolina found that before the merger, the two companies’ combined 2009-10 spending of roughly $19 million on lobbying and campaign expenditures would have made it the state’s largest corporate political action committee.
With the merger, the newly created utility giant is now poised to exert an even greater influence on lawmakers from both N.C. political parties.
McCrory worked at Duke for nearly three decades, and his employment there continued during his seven-term run as the Republican mayor of Charlotte. That’s fine — being mayor is technically a part-time job.
But the Democratic group N.C. Citizens for Progress vocally criticized McCrory during the 2012 campaign for refusing to make his Duke salary public and for testifying to Congress as Charlotte’s mayor against proposed air quality regulations that could hurt Duke’s bottom line.
McCrory has now appointed two former Duke employees to his Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce and Director of the Office of State Personnel.
With that in mind, the state’s new governor has a big decision in front of him.
In his first term, McCrory could make at least three new appointments (including a new chair) to the seven-member N.C. Utilities Commission. He could also name a new Public Staff executive director to represent state residents in utility cases.