Duke, Progress ordered to release some details of power deals

Posted August 14, 2012 4:00 p.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2012 4:26 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Utilities Commission on Tuesday ordered Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy Inc. to disclose some of the details of deals they cut with major customers before their merger last month.

The order came in response to a public records request by several media companies, including Capitol Broadcasting Co., the parent company of WRAL.

Duke and Progress had argued that the information constitutes a trade secret, but the commission determined that the deals generally don't involve the technical information usually included in a trade secret. The agency also said the the deals have no independent commercial value, and disclosing them wouldn't give anyone else an economic advantage.

Eighty-four provisions in the 17 deals do contain proprietary information, so the utilities can redact those sections from the documents before releasing them, the commission said.

The companies have until Aug. 24 to file the public records with the commission or appeal the ruling.

The move is the latest chapter in the commission's investigation of the merger, which created the nation's largest electric utility.

Former Progress Chief Executive Bill Johnson was forced out as president and CEO of the combined firm within hours of the July 2 merger, replaced by Duke CEO Jim Rogers.

Rogers and Duke directors have defended the company before the Utilities Commission against accusations of deceit made by Progress employees and others. Johnson told commissioners that he became the scapegoat by forcing Duke to go through with the merger despite rising costs.

The commission is considering whether to alter its approval of the merger.