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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Petersburg City Council delays making statement on Progress Energy nuke plant



ST. PETERSBURG -- Despite the pleas of half a dozen Occupy St. Petersburg members, the City Council on Thursday backed off a resolution that would have urged the state to reject Progress Energy's request for customers to help pay for a $2.5 billion repair bill for its Crystal River nuclear plant.

Thev voted 8-0 instead to refer the meaningless yet symbolic resolution to a committee, during which a representative from the utility will explain Progress Energy's position, and a yet-to-be-determined expert will explain concerns from customers.

"It's complex, it would be appropriate to hear from Progress Energy on this," said Jeff Danner, who moved first to slow down the approval of the resolution proposed by Karl Nurse. "We should ask them and get some explanation."

Steve Kornell then moved that a consumer expert should also give a presentation to council members, as well.

Despite knowing an upgrade posed significant risks, Progress Energy went ahead with the repairs that led to cracks in a containment building at the Crystal River plant. Utility officials are asking the Florida Public Service Commission for permission to get customers to pay at least $670 million.

Nurse said he wanted the St. Petersburg City Council to deliver a message to Progress Energy that it was looking out for the community.

"This is crony capitalism," Nurse said. "It's offensive they can rig the system like this."

Nurse drew support from about six members of Occupy St. Petersburg, who spoke in favor of the resolution.

"The issue surrounding Progress Energy is precisely the reason why the Occupy movement exists," said Lenny Flank, a member of the grassroots movement. "It is a classic example of a huge rich Fortune 500 corporation that gets whatever it wants."

Occupy St. Petersburg plans a protest of Progress Energy on Saturday. It would have helped to have the City Council's stated support, Flank said after the meeting. But he said he understood why they didn't pass the resolution.

"I can understand why elected officials are reluctant to get involved," Flank said. "Progress Energy is one of the largest political campaign contributors in the state. It owns many of our elected officials."

But at least the resolution was referred to a committee, Flank said.

"That means people will keep talking about it, keeping it alive," he said. "That's a good thing."

-- Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer


[Last modified: Thursday, December 15, 2011 7:25pm]


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