Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Business

Critics hail 'modest' reforms to nuclear advance fee law

RECOMMENDED READING


Gov. Rick Scott has signed the bill that toughens guidelines for utilities that want to collect money from customers in advance for construction of new nuclear plants.

Critics of the nuclear advance fee hailed the governor's move as a critical step toward guarding consumers' money. The advance fee has allowed utilities to collect hundreds of millions of dollars for nuclear plants that may never be built.

Neither Florida Power & Light Co. nor Duke Energy have committed to building the reactors for which they have been collecting money since as far back as 2009.

"We welcome the governor's signature on this modest bill, which is an important step in reigning in unbridled utility access to consumers' wallets," Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a nonprofit environmental group, said in statement.

"We remain concerned, however, that the Governor's appointments to the Public Service Commission continue to be captive agents of the large power companies in Florida," Smith said. "This bill will not work if the Public Service Commission does not work."

Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz who sponsored the legislation signed by the governor late Friday, agreed with Smith's view that the legislation did not go far enough.

"More work needs to be done in reforming the system, particularly the Public Service Commission and how we go about providing the long-term energy needs of our state," Legg said. "Unfortunately, a total repeal wasn't achieved and a refund wasn't achieved."

The PSC defended its handling of the nuclear advance fee law based on the way the legislation was crafted.

"On May 2, the Supreme Court of Florida unanimously upheld that Florida's Public Service Commission correctly implemented Florida's Nuclear Cost Recovery law in a case brought forth by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy," Cindy Muir, a spokeswoman for the PSC, said in a statement. "Florida's PSC will continue to implement the laws in the public interest as established by Florida's legislature."

The state's two largest utilities, Duke and FPL, propose to build two reactors each, but have not committed to do so. Still, the utilities have been collecting hundreds of millions of dollars from consumers in advance for the projects without any requirement to refund the money if the plants never get built.

Duke customers are paying $1.5 billion toward the Levy project, and the utility gets to pocket about $150 million, whether or not the plant gets built.

Duke is collecting $3.45 per 1,000 kilowatt hours of usage each month from its customers this year and will continue to do so through 2017, as approved in an agreement with the state.

The utility also spent hundreds of millions increasing the power at the now-shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant and still wants customers to foot the bill for the expenses, though they'll never get a kilowatt for it.

The legislation Scott signed into law states that if a utility cannot demonstrate that it plans to complete the construction of the nuclear plant, it will no longer be allowed to collect money. The utility has 10 years after it gets its license to begin construction or lose access to the fee.

And it must prove the plant is both economically "feasible" and "reasonable" to continue moving forward with the projects.

Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332.

Comments
A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

ST. PETERSBURG — Not all sinister toys are as obvious as a Chucky doll. Many present more subtle threats — choking hazards, high lead content, privacy concerns. And as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks off, consumer advocates are urging s...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Indian automaker plant is latest sign of Detroit comeback

Indian automaker plant is latest sign of Detroit comeback

It has been years since Detroit, birthplace of the American auto industry, was a steady producer of the manufacturing jobs that defined it as the Motor City. But its comeback is entering a new phase.The latest milestone came this week, with the annou...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Associated PressWASHINGTON — Decades after they were banned from the airwaves, Big Tobacco companies return to prime-time television this weekend — but not by choice. Under court order, the industry for the first time will be forced to advertise the ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

TAMPAIt’s been more than a century since Ybor City’s first public school was demolished on the plot of land now identified as 1311 E Eighth Ave.For the past 22 years, the popular concert venue New World Brewery took up the space and one next door. No...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

ST. PETERSBURG — World and national tragedies are changing the city’s approach to security for special events at North Straub Park.With the approach of the holidays, concrete barricades have been erected at a section of the park’s perimeter, where Fo...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

TAMPA — Panama’s Copa Airlines, which four years ago became the first airline to offer service between Panama and Tampa Bay, said it is increasing its nonstop service between Tampa International Airport and Panama City to daily flights starting in Ju...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Despite Hurricane Irma, Florida hit another record high number in tourists visiting the state in the first nine months of this year, according to figures released this week.Visit Florida, the state’s tourism bureau, said 88.2 million visitors came to...
Published: 11/21/17
FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday followed through on his pledge to repeal 2015 regulations designed to ensure that internet service providers treat all online content and apps equally, setting up a showdown ...
Published: 11/21/17
Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

TAMPA — You can collect $110,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest in the Seminole Heights killings, but for now you’ll have to make two stops.The David A. Straz Foundation announced Monday it would contribute $10,000 to a reward f...
Published: 11/21/17
Hurricane Irma hurt some Tampa Bay home sales even in October

Hurricane Irma hurt some Tampa Bay home sales even in October

Pinellas County home sales took another hurricane-related hit in October as the rest of the Tampa Bay area bounced back from Hurricane Irma.But while prices in all four counties rose once again, the rate of increase continues to slow. Hillsborough’s...
Updated: 12 hours ago