Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Duke Energy silent on ALEC ties

Duke Energy isn't saying whether it's a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, the conservative, state-level policy group that is a frequent target of the left.

The British newspaper The Guardian released internal documents last week that list Duke as a lapsed ALEC member. ALEC counts as members nearly one-third of North Carolina's Republican-led legislature, including House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius, the documents show.

Duke won't confirm or deny being a member. Duke has supported ALEC's past events, including spending $50,000 to sponsor a 2012 meeting in Charlotte, and might do so again, says spokesman Tom Williams.

All six of the states in Duke's territory -- the Carolinas, Florida, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky -- have Republican-majority legislatures, Williams notes, and five have Republican governors.

"It's all about having a seat at the table as discussions are held, and sometimes supporting things and sometimes not," Williams says.

Greenpeace and other groups say Duke's status matters because of ALEC's positions on renewable energy. Among them is a proposal that, critics say, would make it more expensive for owners of rooftop solar panels to pay utilities to use the electric grid.

"Duke's customers deserve to know whether their utility stands with an organization that plans to attack homeowners in North Carolina who have installed solar panels," Greenpeace researcher Connor Gibson said by e-mail. Duke's membership would "prove," he said that the utility supports the ALEC proposal.

ALEC lost support following the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida last year for its support of "stand-your-ground" laws.

Dozens of bills introduced in the N.C. legislature this year, including measures on voter identification and private school vouchers, reflected the group's positions, Raleigh's News & Observer has reported.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fewer Charlotte commuters get to work by car

A slightly smaller proportion of metro Charlotteans is commuting by car as working from home, public transit use and biking increase, says a new study based on federal transportation and census data.

The study was commissioned by the NCPIRG Education Fund, a Raleigh-based consumer group. The group declared the results, which showed an overall drop in miles traveled by vehicles, to mean "the driving boom is over." It urged policy makers to invest more heavily in public transit and biking.

The proportion of commuters using cars dropped in 99 of the 100 largest U.S. cities in recent years, the report says. That included a 3.4 percent drop in metro Charlotte between 2000 and the period of 2007-11, the ninth-largest decrease nationwide.

Public transit passenger-miles transit increased in a majority of cities, including Charlotte. So did biking, although Charlotte showed little recent change. Every metro area showed an increase in employees working from home.