Duke Energy CEO Claims That Savings from Trump Tax Cuts “flowed right to customers” — EWG Cries Foul

By B.N. Frank

Recently, several groups formed a coalition asking that Duke Energy treat low-income customers better.  Environmental Working Group (EWG) is one of them.  They haven’t been fans of Duke for a while.

Of course it’s been more than low-income customers who’ve been complaining about unreasonably high bills as well as the company’s gas and electric 2-way wireless transmitting “Smart” Meters (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).  In 2017, a group of doctors submitted a letter to utility commissions in all 6 states where the company has installed them.  They asked the commissions to not allow Duke to charge “opt out” fees for customers who refused “Smart” Meters.  Most customers are still paying opt-out fees but they are different in each state.  Of course, opt-out fees are also adding to the unreasonably high bills.  Nevertheless, Duke’s CEO recently bragged that the company had passed tax cut savings directly to customers.

From Environmental Working Group:

Duke Energy CEO: Savings from Trump tax cuts ‘flowed right to customers’

WASHINGTON – The head of Duke Energy recently suggested the monopoly utility generously passed along to customers the savings it received under the Trump corporate tax cut.

During an appearance on Yahoo! Finance’s program “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” Duke’s president and CEO Lynn Good and Serwer discussed federal tax policy and how it affects the utility behemoth’s energy costs for its captive ratepayers.

Good claimed that Duke Energy has sent to its ratepayers the windfall it received from the 2017 federal corporate income tax cut signed into law by former President Trump.

“And so what I mean by that is when tax rates came down, I reduced the cost of electricity to my customers by over a billion dollars,” she said. “It did not stay in the corporate coffers of Duke Energy, it flowed right to customers.”

During the first three years of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed by Trump, Duke paid, on balance, less than zero in federal income taxes on nearly $8 billion in revenue between 2018 and 2020, according to an analysis of the company’s tax records by the nonprofit Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

What Good failed to disclose in the  Yahoo! Finance interview is that Duke is required by law to return any savings from tax cuts to customers. In keeping with its long-standing practice of squeezing customers, Duke filed a request with the North Carolina Utilities Commission, or NCUC, for permission to reimburse that money over 40 years, according to documents filed with the NCUC. (See page 56.)

The state’s regulatory commission largely ignored Duke’s request and cut the repayment period significantly, requiring the utility to refund customers within two to five years, and not the four decades it sought from regulators. (See page 17.)

“The only thing that concerns Ms. Good and Duke Energy is how to gouge its captive ratepayers at every opportunity,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Duke would have kept every dime it received through the corporate tax cut giveaway, and that’s exactly what they tried to do.

“The sad fact is Duke repeatedly pushes for and receives approval to jack up rates in order to pass along the costs of its failed fossil fuel and nuclear operations to its ratepayers. Duke has never and will never willingly invest in far cheaper and much safer renewable sources, like wind and solar, in order to adopt policies that lower monthly bills for customers.”

“Duke Energy advocating against raising corporate tax rates by claiming that doing so benefits its customers is laughable,” said Rory McIlmoil, senior energy analyst for Appalachian Voices. “In reality, at a time when Duke is raising rates, shutting off power to tens of thousands of struggling households for unpaid bills and delaying the needed transition to a lower cost, carbon-free energy system, Duke had attempted to keep the savings of the 2017 tax cuts from customers for the next few decades.”

McIlmoil and Cook and their respective groups are founding members of the Duke Energy Accountability Coalition, which will hold a hearing on May 4th to examine how Duke deploys greenwashing and other tactics to slow its transition to clean energy, and ignores what is needed to avoid the worst impacts of the climate emergency.

During the same interview, Good warned energy costs for its captive customers could go up if President Biden is successful in his pledge to increase the corporate federal tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent.

“… if taxes rise it becomes something that we’ll work with our regulators and customers on to try to minimize the impact,” said Good.

Since the 2017 tax cut for corporations went into effect, Duke has also sought monthly rate increases for its ratepayers in North Carolina and Indiana, and pressured lawmakers and regulators in the Tar Heel state to force taxpayers to cover a considerable portion of coal ash cleanup.

In March of this year, Duke’s subsidiary Piedmont Natural Gas petitioned regulators in North Carolina for a 10.4 percent overall rate hike

on customers, primarily to recover roughly $1.7 billion it has spent on natural gas infrastructure.

In another example of Duke’s treatment of ratepayers, it has cut off electricity for more than 60,000 low-income residents in North Carolina alone in the past couple of months since the state moratorium on shut-offs due to the coronavirus pandemic was lifted.

American utility companies have received BILLIONS in federal stimulus money to install “Smart” Meters – electric, gas, and water.  Since approximately 57% of Americans already have them – they may be installed on your home too.  Cost for installation and replacement is often passed on to customers via rate increases.  Despite all of the problems reported – including fires and explosions (see 1, 2, 3) – American utilities, including Duke Energy, are installing more of them because they are extremely profitable.  “Smart” Meters are 2-way wireless transmitting which allows utilities to remotely turn off services as well as ration customer usage.  Utilities are able to collect minute-by- minute customer usage data with “Smart” Meters as well.  They can analyze this data in order to market more products and services to customers and also sell it to 3rd parties (see 1, 2).

Because these meters are 2-way wireless transmitting, they also create high levels of harmful electromagnetic radiation (see 1, 2, 3).  This has led to numerous reports about health issues in people and animals after these meters have been installed (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).  A growing number of Americans want traditional analog meters – not “Smart” Meters or digital meters with the RF turned off.  Many utilities now allow customers to “opt out” because of all the complaints and lawsuits.

Unfortunately, many environmental and social justice groups don’t acknowledge any of this.  In fact, some of them promote “Smart” Meters including EWG.  Crazy, right?

Some American legislators have taken action against “Smart” Meters for various reasons (see 1, 2, 3).  Opposition to these meters is worldwide.  Online documentary, Take Back Your Power, provides more horrifying details.

Activist Post reports regularly about “Smart” Meters and other unsafe technology.  For more information, visit our archives and the following websites:

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