Thursday, April 26, 2018
Business

No agreement yet over who pays for Crystal River nuclear plant repairs

After their first two mediation sessions, Progress Energy Florida and its insurance company still could not reach a settlement over the crippled Crystal River nuclear plant.

The parties continue to negotiate but a final decision about the future of the nuclear plant may not come until summer.

John Burnett, a lawyer for Progress Energy Florida and its parent company, Duke Energy, told a state Public Service Commission hearing Monday that the utility and insurance company continue to seek a resolution of the Crystal River claim.

"As we sit hear today, we've had two mediations," Burnett said. "The mediator has not declared any impasse yet, neither have the parties."

Last summer, Progress told utility regulators and shareholders that the utility had set "nonbinding" insurance claim negotiations for the fourth quarter of 2012.

If those talks failed, the utility and the insurance company, known as NEIL, would then move to a formal, binding arbitration that would likely take place this spring.

Progress wants NEIL to pick up most of the tab for repairs to the Crystal River plant, which has been idle since a botched maintenance and upgrade project crippled the plant in fall 2009.

The utility says it will take at least 33 months to repair the plant, if and when work begins, and cost at least $1.5 billion to fix.

The repair cost is in addition to $300 million a year needed for replacement power while the plant remains offline.

Depending on the repair the utility pursues, the bill to fix the broken plant could reach $3.5 billion plus replacement power costs and take eight years to complete.

"It should be obvious that this is an important issue," said Public Service Commissioner Eduardo Balbis. "It is something this commission is watching closely."

Burnett said investigative teams from the utility are finalizing their reports so the company can make its decision whether to repair the 37-year-old nuclear plant or permanently close it.

Crystal River's federal operating license expires in 2016. Progress has applied for a 20-year extension, but years of the additional time could be lost to repair work.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which issues the operating license, must approve any repair plan before extending the license.

The longer it takes for the utility to make a decision about the plant, the more it is costing the company's shareholders and customers.

A settlement agreement Progress reached with the state last year requires the utility to refund customers $100 million if it did not begin repairs by Dec. 31, 2012, and return the plant to service by 2016.

The $100 million is in addition to $288 million the utility agreed to refund customers for replacement power because of the outage. But the replacement power bill continues to grow along with other repair related costs.

"We're kind of watching the clock," said Charles Rehwinkel, deputy public counsel, who represents consumers before the Public Service Commission.

"I think the sooner a decision is made," Rehwinkel said in an interview, "the better."

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

Comments
Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

ST. PETERSBURG — The head of Duke Energy Florida is leaving his post to take a new role with the utility’s parent company June 1, the company announced on Wednesday. Harry Sideris, 47, was appointed this week to serve as vice president a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Published: 04/25/18
As more emotional support animals fly on U.S. airlines, Congress eyes new ways to tighten the leash

As more emotional support animals fly on U.S. airlines, Congress eyes new ways to tighten the leash

WASHINGTON — With hundreds of thousands of emotional support animals taking to the skies on U.S. airlines, Congress may start pulling a tighter leash.Two new legislative options emerged this week to address a hairy issue for American Airlines, Southw...
Published: 04/25/18

Comcast challenges Murdoch with rival bid for U.K.-based Sky

LONDON — U.S. media giant Comcast on Wednesday offered $30.7 billion for Sky PLC, topping a bid from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and setting up a bidding war for Britain’s biggest satellite TV company.Comcast said it would pay approximately $17...
Published: 04/25/18
Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

TRINITY — Pasco County will be getting its first Sprouts Farmers Market, the organic grocery chain announced Wednesday. The new store will open at the Village at Mitchell Ranch on State Road 54 and Little Road. Officials with the speciality st...
Published: 04/25/18
Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

TAMPA — Circle K is converting the gas station portion of eight of its Hillsborough locations to Circle K fuel. Previously, the fuel was provided by other brands, such as Shell. The new Circle K branding also brings with it the Canadian-owned conveni...
Published: 04/25/18
Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida has the strongest residential building codes among 18 coastal states, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Florida’s rating is 95, almost three times higher than lowest-ranked Texas. Other states wit...
Published: 04/25/18
Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Times staffRedlining’ — banks’ refusal to make mortgage loans in certain areas — still has a huge effect on housing values even though the practice was banned 50 years ago. According to Zillow, a Tampa Bay house in a once-redlined area is worth less ...
Published: 04/25/18
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Published: 04/25/18
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Published: 04/25/18