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Duke Energy CEO apologizes to regulator over probe

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The head of Duke Energy said he regrets that officials with the nation's largest electric company went too far in their criticism of North Carolina regulators responsible for setting rates in its top power market, according to a letter released Tuesday.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission released the letter from Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, which was required by a settlement ending the commission's probe into whether regulators were misled about a surprise CEO switch at the company. Duke Energy's takeover of Raleigh-based Progress Energy ended with the combined company dumping a Progress executive who'd been promised the top job, in favor of Rogers.

Charlotte-based Duke Energy denies any wrongdoing, but apologized and admitted it had "fallen short of the commission's understanding of Duke Energy's obligations" as a regulated utility — language required by the settlement finalized last week.

Rogers, the former CEO of Plainfield-based PSI Resources Inc., also said the company regrets criticizing the commission about its investigation. The expression of regret went a step beyond what the letter was supposed to contain.

"I wish we could retract the statements made regarding the manner in which the hearings were conducted and regarding the commission's actions. We cannot undo what was said, but we acknowledge that our public criticism of the commission was inappropriate," Rogers' letter said. "We take our bond of trust with all regulators very seriously, and will work hard to continue to earn and maintain your trust."

Rogers and Duke Energy board members called to testify during hearings the commission held in July urged the regulator to drop its investigation and let the company focus on integrating the two Fortune 500 energy companies based in North Carolina. The deal created the nation's largest electric company. Duke director Ann Maynard Gray called the regulatory body's inquiry "unwarranted."

Last month, Rogers said that unless regulators treated Duke Energy fairly and properly, it might not keep its headquarters in North Carolina.

A Duke Energy spokesman later explained that Rogers wasn't warning the largest U.S. electric utility was thinking about moving its headquarters from Charlotte, just that a hostile regulatory environment in North Carolina could weaken Duke and leave it vulnerable to acquisition by a competitor.

Testimony during the commission's hearings and emails released as a result of its investigation indicated that Duke Energy directors considered for months dumping Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson as head of the combined company, a leadership position promised to him and to regulators throughout the 18-month merger process. Johnson was dumped hours after the deal closed July 2, surprising regulators and investors.

Duke Energy hopes the settlement will clear the air as it gears up to ask the regulator to approve two large rate increases in its largest market. Duke Energy has 3.2 million customers in North Carolina and another 3.9 million in South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Florida.

Rogers will retire by Dec. 31, 2013 — a date announced simultaneously with the settlement.

Johnson was hired last month as chief executive of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest public utility.

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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