Duke Energy Corp. spent $1.6 million lobbying federal officials in the third quarter on environmental rules, regulatory costs, and support for new energy technologies, according to a recent disclosure report.
That's slightly more than the $1.59 million it spent a year earlier and it's 8 percent less than the $1.73 million Duke Energy spent in the second quarter of 2011, according to disclosure reports it has filed with the House clerk's office.
Duke Energy and other electric utilities are facing a host of new or tightened environmental regulations.
The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of revising federal clean-air standards to reduce the amount of pollutants such as mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that utilities and others are allowed to release.
About 60 percent of the power Duke Energy produces is generated by coal-fired plants, a major source of pollutants. Duke and other utilities have lobbied to delay the tightening of clean-air rules or give companies more time to comply.
Among many issues, Duke also lobbied the government about impending new EPA rules governing emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to climate change. Burning coal and other fossil fuels also generates these gases in large amounts.
A 2007 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court gave EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Democrats, Republicans, industry leaders and even the EPA all agree separate legislation would be preferable but Congress has been unable to agree on new rules. It is considering several measures that would either prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases or delay rules by two years.
More broadly, Duke lobbied on a bill passed by the House of Representatives that would prevent the White House from imposing major regulations without congressional approval. The bill is not expected to be taken up in the Senate.
Duke also lobbied for support for research and development for energy technologies including advanced nuclear reactor technology and electric vehicles. The company also lobbied for more heating bill assistance for low income families, protection for the electric system from cyber attacks and on disposal rules for coal ash, a byproduct of coal combustion.
Duke, based in Charlotte, N.C., serves 3.5 million electric customers in 5 states. It has agreed to purchase rival Progress Energy, based in Raleigh, N.C. If approved by regulators, the deal would create the largest U.S. utility.
In July to September, Duke lobbied Congress, the EPA and the Commerce Department, according to the report it filed Oct. 18.
Lobbyists are required to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches of government under a federal law enacted in 1995.