Governor, top Duke Energy officials met privately, won’t say why
RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration has made much of its efforts over the past year to “hold Duke Energy accountable” for the company’s handling of coal ash pollution.
But on June 1, while in the midst of pressing legal action against and issuing news releases critical of the nation’s largest utility, top state officials met for a private dinner at the Executive Mansion with Duke executives, according to calendar entries and other records reviewed by WRAL News.
McCrory, his top environmental regulator, his chief of staff and his general counsel attended, as did Duke Chief Executive Lynn Good, the company’s general counsel and the president of the company’s North Carolina operations.
Beyond general statements that environmental policy and job creation were topics of the meeting, neither state officials nor a spokeswoman for Duke have been willing to provide details of the discussion. The conversation came close on the heels of the state fining the company for pollution violations, during legal wrangling over coal ash pollution and while pending legislation on renewable energy and the state’s response to federal clean power rules was debated at the General Assembly.
In response to a public records request, the Department of Environmental Quality said Secretary Donald van der Vaart neither received an agenda for the meeting nor recorded the discussion in any way. A similar request to the Governor’s Office yielded only emails and calendar entries arranging the meal and the meeting, but officials say there were no emails or other documents detailing what topics were discussed or why exactly the meeting was called.
The meeting stands out as unique among nearly a year of entries on van der Vaart’s calendar, and a spokesman for McCrory could not furnish examples of similar mealtime sit-downs with other large companies.
Questions put to McCrory’s press office in December and this week did not yield any more specific answers.
“The discussion included topics about the economy, the environment, energy and job creation,” McCrory spokesman Graham Wilson said.
Wilson was unable to provide answers over the past month to follow-up questions seeking more detail.
McCrory spoke Wednesday during the North Carolina Chamber’s annual economic forecast forum in Durham but did not take questions from reporters other than a moderator helping to host the business-friendly event. That said, the governor did brag on what he called an “incredible rebound” in North Carolina’s economy and ticked off a number of contributing factors, including the state’s power providers.