Saturday, January 20, 2018
Business

Lawmakers to protest settlement with Duke over nuclear costs

Two Pinellas County lawmakers are calling for the defeat of a proposed settlement between state regulators and Duke Energy that would force customers to pay $3.2 billion for nuclear power they'll never get.

Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Carl Zimmermann, D-Dunedin, plan to protest outside Duke's St. Petersburg headquarters at 11 a.m. Saturday to show their opposition to the settlement agreement that will be considered by regulators Oct. 16.

"The pitchforks and torches are coming out," Dudley said about the rally, dubbed "STOP DUKE RIP OFF."

Saturday's rally will be the second in recent weeks designed to oppose utility charges related to Duke's failed nuclear projects.

Sterling Ivey, a Duke spokesman, said the Legislature and the state Public Service Commission establish the rules and the process for companies that seek to increase their nuclear power generation. The current rules, he said, allow utilities to recover the costs from their customers as long as they are "reasonably and prudently incurred."

"To date, the FPSC has not found any costs to be imprudent," Ivey said.

The state Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers before the commission, reached a settlement with Duke over the expenses related to the botched upgrade to the now shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant and as much as $1.5 billion in spending on the canceled Levy County nuclear project.

The customer money spent on Crystal River and Levy resulted from a state law that allows utilities to charge their customers in advance for increasing power at existing nuclear facilities and for development of new plants. Dudley, who was elected largely by campaigning to repeal the law, is one of a growing group of lawmakers who have moved to alter or repeal the measure.

"There's a coalescence in the Legislature that is talking about it," Dudley said. "They're agreeing what exists is bad and needs to be changed."

Duke had no immediate response to the planned protest.

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