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Duke Energy Agrees To 7.2 Percent Rate Hike; AG Plans To Fight It

Duke Energy has reached a settlement with the state's consumer advocate to raise rates 7.2 percent next year. That's about half of what the utility originally requested. But critics say that's not low enough. Duke wanted to raise rates 15 percent overall. But the North Carolina Utilities Commission's Public Staff, which is the state's consumer advocate, said 5 percent would be reasonable. Yesterday Duke and the Public Staff agreed on a 7 percent hike. Robert Gruber, the staff's director said the settlement is in the best interest of ratepayers. "We're afraid they could've gotten more than 7.2 percent. They could've gotten a good bit more than that if we litigated it," says Gruber. A 7 percent increase would add about $7 to an average customer's monthly bill. Attorney General Roy Cooper says that's still too much for working families and business during these tough economic times. He plans to oppose the increase. The North Carolina Utilities Commission will begin hearings to consider Duke's settlement on Monday. Duke Energy has also asked for an overall rate increase of 15 percent for its South Carolina customers. The state's consumer advocate has pushed for a 6 percent consumer rate hike. The Office of Regulatory Staff says it's close to reaching an agreement with Duke.