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Durham protesters speak out against Duke Energy's rate hike

By Kosta Harlan |
November 3, 2011
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Over 60 people rallied outside the hearing to denounce Duke Energy's proposed ra
Over 60 people rallied outside the hearing to denounce Duke Energy's proposed rate hike. (Fight Back! News/Kosta Harlan)
Rafael Estrada of Occupy Durham speaks out against the rate hike.
Rafael Estrada of Occupy Durham speaks out against the rate hike.

Durham, NC - Over 60 protesters marched on Durham City Hall here, Nov. 2, where the Public Utilities Commission was holding a hearing about Duke Energy's proposed 18% rate hike. After rallying outside, 200 people packed the two-hour hearing in City Hall to speak out against the rate hike.

The march kicked off at the newly-renamed People's Plaza, where Occupy Durham has had an encampment over the last several weeks. 40 people rallied before marching through downtown Durham, chanting "No hike, No way! Duke Energy, we won't pay!" and "Money for jobs and education, not for greedy corporations!"

Outside the Public Utilities Commission hearing, a press conference organized by North Carolina WARN (Waste Awareness & Reduction Network) brought together speakers from numerous community organizations and businesses in the area. Rafael Estrada, speaking as a member of the Occupy Durham movement at the press conference, stated, “We want to point out how obscene it is for a corporation that had record profits of $1.3 billion in 2010 to ask for a rate increase of 17% in 2011. This increase means a hard blow to all residents in the state and it would be especially harmful to those that are mostly affected by corporate greed: those below and near the poverty line, the unemployed and the undocumented."

Duke Energy claims the rate hike is necessary to "begin recovering $4.8 billion in investments made since 2009 to modernize our electric system and comply with state and federal emissions regulations." But according to their own statements, 75% of the increase would go to capital investments. This means the public is footing the bill for the foundation of future profits for Duke Energy. Duke Energy's profits went up 23% in 2010 alone, to $1.3 billion.

Alissa Ellis is an unemployed mother who is active with Occupy Durham and helped lead the rally outside the hearing. Ellis told Fight Back!, "It is important to educate people about what big greedy corporations are doing because most of the public is in the dark."

Ellis continued, "It is important for the city of Durham to show to the commission that we don't support this increase. We are a broad coalition of people, we are the 99%, and the 1% shouldn't be allowed to push us around anymore and take our money."

Duke Energy is also facing heat due to a planned merger with Progress Energy. The merger would result in the country's largest utility - an enormously powerful monopoly - valued at $65 billion.