**UPDATED WITH COMMENT FROM DUKE ENERGY PROGRESS***
RALEIGH – Duke Energy Progress has another group of critics to contend with today after this afternoon’s launch of www.citizensrooted.com. The website is aimed at linking unhappy Duke Energy customers and raising money for those in a legal battle with the energy giant.
John Kane Jr., son of a prominent Raleigh developer, is spearheading the effort. Kane was sued by Duke Energy earlier this year for refusing the allow Duke Energy to cut down a willow tree on his property. Kane says he came home one day to find a ribbon on a tree and a letter from Duke saying they were cutting down the tree in his yard. He refused, saying it was outside the 10 foot easement. Instead Kane had it trimmed to accommodate nearby power lines and was sued a second time by Duke Energy. Kane represented himself in court against Duke Energy and won.
“With all the publicity that my case got, I started hearing from people all over the state who’d had similar experiences with Duke Energy,” said Kane. “I want to increase awareness that this company, that made so much money last year and has the wherewithal to be a good corporate citizen, is behaving this way.”
The website will also try to raise money for customers who may be facing litigation with Duke, but cannot afford legal fees. It documents news coverage and the predicaments that other homeowners are experiencing.
“We are going to take this as far as it possibly can go. This is a property rights issue and as a government subsidized monopoly, which Duke Energy is, they have a responsibility to treat customers better than they do,” said Kane. “We want to get this issue in front of the utilities commission and maybe get some legislation drafted that will be beneficial to people across the state.”
Duke Energy Progress responded to the website’s launch with this statement:
“As a regulated public utility, Duke Energy Progress is required to maintain trees under high voltage transmission lines across our service area to ensure reliable service. We purchase easements from property owners to maintain trees along our power lines. We must apply rules for tree trimming and removal fairly to all customers. Duke Energy maintains more than 100,000 miles of overhead power lines across the state. Altering or negotiating the application of those easements or rules for a single customer is not only unfair to our other customers, but jeopardizes safety and reliability for everyone.”