As the North Carolina Utilities Commission tries to make sense of the farcical events that surround its approval of the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy into the largest public electricity company in the nation, the deeper they dig, the dumber Duke looks. …
… The shenanigans continued yesterday in Raleigh, N.C. As the NCUC hearings began, Duke’s arsenal of high-powered lawyers – including a former state Supreme Court justice hired just for the proceedings – made their presence known. According to the Triangle Business Journal, Duke attorney James Cooney III, who represented former presidential candidate John Edwards in the federal lawsuit against him in which he was acquitted earlier this year, sought permission to cross-examine Johnson after his testimony. NCUC Chairman Edward Finley extinguished that idea.
”You don’t have that right,” he told Cooney, “and we’re not going to hear you on that, so sit down please.”
That set the tone for everyone else watching, but it’s hard to tell whether tone-deaf Duke and its legal team caught on. Nevertheless Johnson told his side of the story, explaining how the merger process was hunky-dory throughout 2011 until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dropped a Baby Ruth in the punchbowl and forced the companies to address concerns that the new Duke would wield too much power over the state’s electricity market, and that municipal utilities would be forced to buy power from them without an alternative option. The need to mitigate those problems caused Rogers and Duke heartburn, and in hindsight Johnson said it became clear that Duke wanted to back out.