Duke Energy has spent more than $10 million to lobby Congress since 2008 as electric utilities ratchet up spending to help shape new laws on climate change and other issues.
Duke spent $3.5 million in the first half of this year, federal reports show, nearly tripling what it spent for all of 1999. The $6.6 million it spent in 2008 roughly doubled its annual lobbying expenses of the three previous years.
Its chief target: legislation to cap emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas linked to global warming. Duke's fleet of coal-fired power plants makes it the nation's third-highest CO2 emitter among U.S. utilities.
As introduced, the climate bill before the U.S. House would have forced utilities like Duke to buy allowances -- permission to release the gas -- at auction. Duke has said that would have driven up customer rates by as much as 27percent.
As passed by the House in June, the bill gave Duke most of the credits it will need for 15 to 20 years for free. The Senate has not yet taken up the bill.
"That was a major achievement," said Duke spokesman Tom Williams. "I would say that was a major example of our (lobbying) presence paying off for our customers."
CEO Jim Rogers has been an outspoken advocate of mandatory carbon limits, and Duke has broken with two industry groups that continue to fight them.
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