Another Progress Energy executive is out at Duke Energy in the latest personnel shuffle of the merged companies. A Duke Energy spokesman says changes required in a settlement with North Carolina utility regulators sparked a "domino effect."
Seven top executives are shifting titles and roles in what resembles a game of musical chairs.
A settlement with regulators required Duke to promote former Progress executive Lloyd Yates to executive vice president of regulated utilities. Confusingly, the guy he's replacing – long-time Duke executive Keith Trent – will keep the same title, but have different duties including much of the work left behind by Jeff Lyash.
Lyash is the one left without a chair when the music stops. Duke Energy is not saying why Lyash is resigning – but he's the fourth high-ranking Progress Energy executive to leave since the merger.
"I mean, this could well be more of the backlash from the Crystal River fiasco," says Jim Warren of the watchdog group NCWARN, referring to Progress Energy's botched attempt at repairing a nuclear plant in Florida that could now cost billions to make right. Jeff Lyash was a senior executive on that project and Duke Energy officials have made no secret of their frustration with the whole thing.
"That was an extremely expensive and embarrassing corporate mistake," adds Warren.
Whatever the reason for Lyash's resignation, his departure leaves just two Progress people on the nine-member executive team at Duke Energy. The original plan was an even split between Progress and Duke executives, but spokesman Dave Scanzoni says there's no conspiracy afoot.
"No one here at Duke Energy is thinking 'Progress' and 'Duke' at this point," says Scanzoni. "We're all Duke Energy and we're all working as a team."
Restoring some balance of power between Duke and Progress executives was implicit in the settlement North Carolina regulators recently approved. NC Utilities Commission attorney Sam Watson says regulators are watching carefully to ensure Duke Energy complies with the letter and spirit of the settlement.
Read the Duke Energy press release about its executive changes here.