Duke CEO Reassures Florida Regulators
Duke CEO Jim Rogers again took questions from regulators today - this time in Florida, where the company now has a presence thanks to its merger with Progress Energy. Compared to the tense grilling Jim Rogers took from North Carolina Utilities Commissioners last month, the Florida meeting was a breeze. The difference is that North Carolina Utility regulators are actually investigating Duke Energy's merger with Progress.
Florida Public Service Commissioners just invited Rogers down to Tallahassee for a get-to-know-you chat.
"We're not here to tell you how to run your company, but we are here to know how you run your company, so I'm looking forward to discussing this with you," said Florida Public Service commissioner Julie Brown at the start of the meeting.
The nearly-two-hour session stuck to basics: How well do you plan to communicate with us? commissioners asked. Is Duke planning any big changes to Progress Florida operations? Can you promise us you're not going to disregard the groundwork we established with Progress over the years?
"Can you reassure us in some way that Florida is not an afterthought?" asked Commissioner Lisa Edgar. "It's my belief that our focus on the customers in Florida will not change," responded Rogers. "Florida will not be an afterthought."
Rogers also vowed to keep commissioners in the loop on the company's deliberations with regard to a Progress nuclear plant called Crystal River. It has been shut down since 2009 and will cost more than one-billion dollars to repair. Rogers hopes to decide by the end of this year whether to repair the plant or shut it down permanently. The decision hinges, in part, on how much money Duke can get from its insurance company to cover repairs. Rogers says an independent report about the status of Crystal River should be ready in the coming months and promised to share it with Florida regulators.
"It gets back to the question that was asked earlier about being open and transparent," said Rogers. "There is no reason for us not to share it with you so you can understand what we understand."
Rogers has good reason to reassure Florida regulators: customers in that state account for nearly twenty percent of the combined company's revenue. Florida commissioners seemed satisfied by their first meeting with Rogers. Commissioner Chairman Ronald Brise' called it "a productive beginning."