Monday, December 18, 2017
Business

Four Florida lawmakers join lawsuit against nuclear advance fee

A group of four legislators say the Florida law that requires utility customers to pay in advance for new nuclear plants is unconstitutional and have joined a lawsuit asking the state Supreme Court to overturn it.

The two state representatives and two senators plan to submit their arguments to the court on Monday. The lawmakers state that the law is vague yet enables utilities to collect hundreds of millions from consumers with little framework for accountability.

"The statute is all but devoid of clarity and specificity and should therefore be found unconstitutional," the legislators argue.

The brief supports a case brought by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), an advocate for energy efficiency and clean energy.

In December, the organization filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court, appealing decisions by the PSC in 2011 that allow utilities to continue to collect hundreds of millions in nuclear construction fees for plants that may never be built. SACE also argues that the law is unconstitutional.

"It is sad that the PSC appears willing to let the power companies unfairly tax Florida families and businesses on an increasingly weak assumption they will build new nuclear reactors sometime next decade," said Stephen A. Smith, executive director of SACE.

Lawmakers, led by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, have been trying unsuccessfully to repeal the law in the legislature. Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, and Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, joined Fasano and Vasilinda in the brief opposing the law.

To hasten the construction of new nuclear power plants, the Legislature in 2006 passed a law that allows utilities to collect fees from customers before the reactors come online.

The measure was designed to save money on construction of the projects by paying some of the costs up front rather than allowing interest to accumulate on borrowed money and be paid after the plants come online.

The state's two largest utilities, Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy Florida are seeking federal licenses to construct new nuclear plants.

Progress will pocket $150 million from the fees it is collecting, which will reach $1.1 billion by the end of 2017 — whether it builds the plant or not. If it does build the plant, the utility will pocket $3.5 billion before reactor produces electricity.

The lawmakers state in their brief that these kinds of benefits to the utilities are simply an unintended by-product of a vague law.

"We may not know the precise legislative intent in drafting (the advance fee law)," the lawmakers state. "But we can say that the result of that section cannot be what the Legislature intended."

Comments
Another reason to buy a home in Tampa Bay? Down payments are lower here

Another reason to buy a home in Tampa Bay? Down payments are lower here

Homebuyers in the Tampa Bay area don’t have to shell out as much on downpayments as buyers in many other places. According to ATTOM Data Solutions, the median downpayment for a bay area home in the quarter ended in September was $13,750 compare...
Updated: 2 hours ago

First-Citizens Bank & Trust acquires Tampa-based HomeBancorp

TAMPA — North Carolina-based First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co. is acquiring Tampa-headquartered HomeBancorp, which operates HomeBanc. First Citizens Bank will pay $15.03 per share in cash, a Monday release said, and the deal is expected to close by mid...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Video: Chick fil-A feeds thousands of hungry travelers stranded in Atlanta airport

Video: Chick fil-A feeds thousands of hungry travelers stranded in Atlanta airport

Chick fil-A is normally closed on Sundays, but it made an exception for the thousands who were stranded at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The travelers were left in the dark following a power outage that forced cancellation of mor...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Pete-Clearwater airport expects holiday parking crunch, so consider arranging a ride

St. Pete-Clearwater airport expects holiday parking crunch, so consider arranging a ride

CLEARWATER — With passenger traffic picking up on Monday and expected to stay strong through Dec. 29, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport says it could run out of parking spaces, so passengers should consider making arrangements to be dropped o...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Just in time for one of the busiest travel periods of the year, gas prices across Florida are back down to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels. Tampa Bay gas hit $2.30 per gallon today, while state prices averaged $2.37 per gallon, according to AAA, The Auto...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

ATLANTA — While power has been restored to the world’s busiest airport, the travel woes will linger for days.Thousands of people were stranded Monday morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where more than 1,000 flights were gro...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Bitcoin futures begin trading on CME, price little changed

NEW YORK — Another security based on the price of bitcoin, the digital currency that has soared in value and volatility this year, began trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Sunday. The CME Group, which owns the exchange, opened up bitcoin f...
Published: 12/17/17
Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

LARGO — Eight months after paying $10.15 million for the office building that houses IT services company Vology, a New York company is suing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser and Florida Department of Revenue contending its $5.5 million ta...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a host and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and they de...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/17/17
Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

TAMPA — For the half of the year that Harry Nichols lives in Oldsmar, he plays 18 holes several times a month at Rocky Point Golf Course. On a good day, Nichols said he shoots close to par on the Dana Shores course. And if he’s really lucky, it’ll on...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17