Bob Scott, Alderman, Town of Franklin, wrote a pointed letter to the editor last week — “Rate increase should be met with salary cuts.” Scott has done solid research into the hefty salaries of Duke Energy’s top executives. Their pay is certainly a slap in the face to thousands of their customers who have lost jobs and unemployment benefits.
In the same July 7, issue of the Macon County News Duke says, “Get the facts: Why is Duke Energy asking to increase electric rates?” In the next-to-last paragraph the reader is told, “In exchange (for rates approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission), the company (Duke) is allowed the opportunity to earn a fair return for investors who bear the financial risk of capital investment.”
At the risk of over-simplifying the facts that exist for Duke customers, this is what I see. On one hand Duke is a utility company charged with the legal task of providing electric service for the customers in their area. When they need or want money they request help from the NCUC. On the other hand Duke is a company that sells stocks and makes every effort to provide financial rewards for investors. Now, if Duke operates as efficiently as possible, how can they justify paying investors profit? Their (investors’) wealth is increased at the expense of all rate payers.
So, is Duke really a utility? Are they really a Fortune 500 Company? It certainly does not appear that way. Duke is a hybrid company — a dual entity business/utility. In other words they enjoy the profits of a successful corporation with the security of a utility.
This dual entity reminded me to re-read the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. It states in part, “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.” That begs the question: If you do not own stock in Duke but pay for electricity, is it fair and just for your money to be shifted into the wealth of a stock holder?
This business/utility arrangement must be very well-liked by Duke’s stockholders. My friends basically tell me that nothing will ever be done about it. That may be true. But, I still believe that as citizens of the United States we need to pay attention to laws that deprive us of our property. As one person there may not be anything I can do about the injustice. But, can you imagine how that could be affected by a united front of Duke customers?
Mr. Scott suggested one way to provide a little monetary relief to all Duke Energy users. This letter will, hopefully, show another. What will Duke do?
Think about it!
Dave Waldrop — Webster, N.C.