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Hearing on Progress rate hike sparks interest

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The North Carolina Utility Commission held a public hearing in Wilmington Tuesday night, the topic, increase electric bills for nearly 2 million Progress Carolina customers.

Visitors to the North Carolina Utility Commission public hearing were greeted by well-organized protesters.

Inside the meeting was much more sedate, with people speaking before the commission on both sides of the issue.

Jeff Brooks with Progress Energy explained why his company is asking for an almost 10 percent increase.

"We know there is never a good time for a rate increase, and we're very conscious of that in the economy today," Brooks said. "But we have made significant investments to retire our older, less efficient coal units in North Carolina, and we're replacing them with cleaner burning natural gas units."

Some question not just the increase but this whole process.

"Is this the Utilities Commission that is actually going to decide this?" Gerrick Brenner with the organization Progress NC asked. "After Bill Rabon jams this bill through the legislature, is Pat McCrory going to be able to replace every single member of the Utilities Commission after he worked for 29 years at Duke Energy?"

This is one of several hearings that the commission will hold across the state before ruling on the rate increase.

As for the commission, Senate Bill 10 is not law yet, but it could affect boards and commissions across the state.

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