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Energy & Environment
Here are some of the other stories catching our attention.

Duke Profits Fall, But Execs Say Main Businesses Strong

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Profits at Duke Energy were lower in the second quarter compared with a year ago, mainly because of a write-down as it prepares to sell its international business. But executives say Duke's main U.S. operations are strong.

Duke's second quarter profits totaled $509 million, or 74 cents a share. That’s down from $543 million, or 78 cents a share, in the same period last year.  Duke took a $194 million charge to reduce the value of its Latin American operations, which it has put up for sale.

Otherwise, Duke would have earned $739 million, or $1.07 per share. That was up from 95 cents a year ago. 

 "You know, it was a good quarter, a solid quarter for us. We're excited about the performance, our cost control and a lot of advancement on strategic issues," Steve Young, Duke's chief financial officer, said in an interview. 

Those included lining up several bidders for the Latin American business, which could be sold next year; winning regulatory approval for network improvements in Indiana; and getting the go ahead to install wireless electric meters in South Carolina.  

Revisions to North Carolina's coal ash removal law are also a bright spot, he said. The law Governor McCrory signed this summer limits Duke's cleanup costs by allowing it to cover and leave coal ash in place at some plants. The utility still estimates it will cost about $5 billion to remove coal ash at all its plants in the coming years.

In a conference call with analysts, CEO Lynn Good cited progress in expanding Duke's natural gas business. That includes the acquisition of Piedmont Natural Gas, which could close by year's end.  

"This acquisition and the expansion of natural gas infrastructure platform supports our transition to a lower carbon future," she said.

Duke also is awaiting completion of two natural gas pipelines, which bring cheaper fuel to plants in the Carolinas and Florida.