Duke Energy rate increase focused on coal ash cleanup cost

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The country's largest electric company heads into a fight for a rate hike with regulators in its top market focused on setting a precedent for charging consumers the full cost of cleaning up coal ash pits loaded with toxic metals.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission opens hearings Monday into whether Duke Energy Corp. will be allowed to charge consumers nearly $200 million a year for the cleanup.

The company and consumer advocates reached a tentative deal last week that would cut the requested rate increase of almost 15 percent.

The rate increase would affect about 1.3 million customers of the company's eastern North Carolina subsidiary. Duke Energy's western North Carolina subsidiary wants a separate 17 percent increase on households that the commission will consider next year.

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