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Power companies spend $19M on lobbying

CHARLOTTE (AP) — The merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy could create not just the biggest utility in the U.S., but also the biggest lobbyist in North Carolina.

The Charlotte Observer reported that the utilities spent a combined $19 million on state and federal campaigns and lobbying in the 2009-10 election cycle. If that spending continued after the proposed merger, the combined utility would spend more politically than Bank of America.

Progress Energy spokesman Mike Hughes says lobbying is critical in a heavily regulated, complex industry like power generation.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is still deciding whether to allow the utilities to merge. The agency says it needs more information, and has told the companies to answer its request for further documents by this week. The agency’s concern is that the merger would reduce competition for wholesale electricity in their home territories in North Carolina and South Carolina. The commission has twice objected to the merger on those grounds.

The companies hope to complete their merger by early July. The combined company would serve 7 million customers in the Carolinas, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

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