For Immediate Release

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Howard Crystal, (202) 809-6926, hcrystal@biologicaldiversity.org

Legal Petition: North Carolina Energy Monopolies Violating Customers' First Amendment Rights

RALEIGH, N.C. - The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a motion to join a legal effort that would ban Duke Energy and other investor-owned public utilities from spending customer money on influence spending in North Carolina. The litigation, initiated in November 2018 by NC Warn and Friends of the Earth, calls on the North Carolina Utilities Commission to enact rules limiting monopoly utilities’ spending on lobbying and other activities largely supporting the fossil fuel industry.

“Energy monopolies are handcuffing North Carolina to dirty fossil fuels and spending ratepayer money to keep it that way,” said Howard Crystal, a senior attorney at the Center. “Residents stuck with utilities like Duke are being forced to fund slick greenwashing campaigns and political activities against their own interests.”      

Investor-owned public utilities in North Carolina spend millions of dollars annually on lobbying, financial contributions to fossil fuel trade associations like Edison Electric Institute, advertising and other activities that promote fossil fuel-generated electricity. This money largely comes from North Carolina ratepayers, who are captive to investor-owned public utilities to provide them electricity. Under Duke Energy’s monopoly, most North Carolinians do not have any meaningful choice to purchase their electricity from other sources.

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Today’s motion argues that the utilities’ use of ratepayer money to buy political influence violates the Center’s North Carolina members’ and supporters’ First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution — which protects not only freedom of speech but freedom to avoid subsidizing speech with which an individual disagrees.

Duke Energy, the second-largest electric utility in the world, generates 90 percent of the electricity used in North Carolina and emits more carbon pollution than any other U.S. utility. Duke often wields its political influence to block competition from cheaper, cleaner renewable energy sources and instead has pushed for projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would cut through North Carolina communities.

“Our members and supporters in North Carolina have suffered enough from monster hurricanes and toxic coal ash contamination,” Crystal said. “They want to break free of dirty energy, not bank-roll lobbying and propaganda that will fuel even more climate chaos and pollution.”

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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