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State groups urge McCrory on recusal from NC utilities commission appointments

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TWC News: State groups urge McCrory on recusal from NC utilities commission appointments
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RALEIGH—Two state groups are urging Governor-elect Pat McCrory to recuse himself from appointing members to the NC utilities commission.

AARP of North Carolina and NC-WARN, an energy watchdog group, claim there is a conflict of interest because McCrory worked for Duke Energy for nearly three decades. The Utilities Commission regulates the rates and services of all public utilities in North Carolina.

It is the oldest regulatory body in state government. Utility companies have to get approval from the commission in order to raise rates, to build new facilities, and most recently the board approved the merger between Duke Energy and Progress Energy.

Essentially the commission is there to ensure people in North Carolina receive a fair deal on their utilities. As governor, McCrory will be responsible for naming the chairman of the utilities commission, the executive director of its public staff, and appoint several commissioners to the board.

NC-WARN and AARP North Carolina say McCrory has a conflict of interest, having worked for Duke Energy for 28 years. They are calling on McCrory to recuse himself from making these appointments. In a letter from NC-WARN and NC AARP to the governor-elect, the two groups stated their case.

“North Carolina very much needs less Duke Energy control over our state government and regulators, not more corporate control. This is a corporation that's trying to raise our rates every year to build dirty and dangerous power plants that we don't even need,” said Executive director of NC-WARN Jim Warren.

However, conservatives say McCrory's business background shouldn't be used against him.

“People should be paying attention when the governor makes an appointment to such an important board as the utilities commission. It doesn't matter whether that governor's background is; years and years of service in state government, years of service as a mayor, years of work for duke energy. You should be scrutinizing those appointments, but the job, the responsibility under the constitution to make those appointments rests with the governor and the governor ought to be making those appointments,” said Mitch Kokai with the John Locke Foundation.

In response, Chris Walker, communications director of the McCrory transition team released a statement saying:

Governor-Elect McCrory will do the job he was elected to do by the people of North Carolina.

McCrory will be sworn in as governor Saturday at 12 p.m.

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