Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

After the latest from Duke Energy, lawmakers need to step up for consumers

Let me see if I understand this correctly:

Nuclear power plants are so danged expensive that utility companies must charge customers more than a decade in advance to pay for them.

(At least that's what the power companies tell us.)

On the other hand, the Crystal River nuclear complex is such a shabby pile of steel and concrete that the power company shouldn't have to pay its full property tax bill.

(At least that's what Duke Energy is telling us.)

So, ahem, which is it?

Because making both arguments is preposterous. It's like something out of a Swindlers Anonymous meeting.

You can't argue one thing when charging customers, and argue something completely different when paying taxes.

"It's ludicrous,'' said recently elected state Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg. "It's total and utter hypocrisy.''

You do not need to be an economist or nuclear engineer to see the numbers do not add up here.

Duke Energy officials say they are contemplating repairs at Crystal River and estimate costs would fall between $1.5 billion and $3.5 billion.

At the same time, Duke refuses to pay taxes on the Citrus County property appraiser's $2.4 billion assessment, which includes about $600 million for the nuclear plant.

So Duke is weighing $3 billion in potential repairs on a structure it swears is worth less than $600 million? That is a shell game only a corporate bloodsucker or Florida legislator could applaud.

Duke would have us believe a proposed Levy County nuclear project will cost $24 billion, yet the broken Crystal River plant is worth diddly-squat.

It's like they're drawing attention to their own scam.

Meanwhile, Citrus is facing a $16 million tax shortfall, not to mention future legal costs. So it looks like such luxuries as education and law enforcement may soon be on the chopping block.

Is there a more realistic answer here? Glad you asked.

Perhaps Florida lawmakers need to re-evaluate the legalized mugging known as the nuclear cost recovery fee — which Duke is charging for the Levy County project.

Sure, it will be a rough sell. Especially considering Progress/Duke recently made a $560,000 donation to the Republican Party of Florida, and the GOP controls both the House and Senate.

Dudley, at least, says it's his No. 1 priority. Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has also been a vocal critic. It would be nice to hear Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, making noise on behalf of constituents, too.

Getting Gov. Rick Scott to finally show interest would also be a step in the right direction. And if we spread a rumor that a Fox News van was spotted in Crystal River, maybe Attorney General Pam Bondi will even show up.

"It'd be nice to hear anything from them because they've been utterly silent,'' Dudley said. "It's emblematic of what's happening with our government. The gatekeepers are doing favors for huge corporations and special interests, and meanwhile the average middle-class family is paying more and more in corporate welfare taxes.''

Honestly, I don't blame the power companies. Profits, after all, are their religion.

It's the folks in Tallahassee who are ultimately responsible for monopolies run amok. It's their job to look out for you, and instead most of them are shamefully looking the other way.

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