Rep. Dwight Dudley slammed state regulators on Thursday for refusing his request that they study the cost of the proposed Levy County nuclear plant.
In a written statement, Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, attacked members of the state Public Service Commission for supporting the wishes of utility companies over the best interest of consumers.
Dudley asked the PSC to review the cost of the $24.7 billion Levy project — the most expensive nuclear plant in U.S. history — after an analysis last month by the Tampa Bay Times showed a natural gas plant would cost billions less than the proposed nuclear reactors.
Duke Energy wants to build the two-reactor Levy project to help meet future energy needs and diversify the state's energy mix.
The utility has been charging customers in advance for the project since 2009, though it has not made a final decision on whether to build the plant. So far, customers are on the hook for $1.5 billion toward the plant. Duke does not have to refund the money if it scraps the project.
In a letter to Dudley, PSC Chairman Ronald Brise said the commission each year reviews whether proposed nuclear projects are "reasonable and prudent."
"I can assure you that, along with my fellow commissioners, we take our mission very seriously and thoroughly review all pertinent information before making decisions that are in the public's best interest," Brise said.
Dudley responded to Brise's letter in his statement to the media that the commission simply does not want to upset Duke Energy and other utilities.
"As long as the PSC functions as a training ground for the power companies," Dudley said, "Duke will continue to call the shots and Florida will remain a customer-subsidized energy monopoly."
Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, had asked Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to conduct a study of the Levy project. Putnam refused, saying it was the responsibility of the PSC.
Ivan Penn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2332.