Duke Energy's failed nuclear ambitions became political fodder in the gubernatorial race Friday with an attack ad blasting Gov. Rick Scott for doing nothing to stop the utility from charging customers for its blunders.
It was the first time that Duke's troubles entered into a statewide political fray.
The ad, airing in the bay area and sponsored by NextGen Climate Action Committee, points to reports from the Tampa Bay Times about the $3.2 billion customers are paying for the botched upgrade at the now-shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant and canceled Levy County nuclear project.
"Florida fleeced by Duke Energy," the ad states. "Rick Scott knew, but he's letting Duke Energy keep collecting billions anyway. Shocking.
"Not so shocking: the half-million dollars Scott's campaign got from Duke Energy."
Billionaire Tom Steyer created the NextGen Climate group to raise money in support of Charlie Crist's gubernatorial run. The group said in a statement it wanted to highlight, "Scott's record of financially benefitting from wealthy donors — standing with corporate energy interests at the expense of Florida's kids, health and economy."
The Scott campaign said it was reviewing the ad and preparing a statement.
Nicole LeBeau, a Duke spokeswoman, said it's the utility's policy not to respond to political ads.
While Scott did not publicly speak out about Duke's nuclear mishaps, it was not his decision to pass the costs to ratepayers.
Duke ran up billions in costs for the Crystal River and Levy projects largely because of a 2006 law that allows utilities to charge customers in advance for increasing nuclear power, dubbed the "advance fee."
The state Public Service Commission, whose five members are appointed by the governor, approved the charges despite the reality that customers never will receive a kilowatt of power from either nuclear project.
The Legislature and Scott could have repealed the advance fee, but lawmakers have refused to do so over the past several years.
Scott has largely remained silent on utility issues. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam became the state's point person on energy matters, and he initially defended the nuclear advance fee.
But he later called at least the Crystal River botched upgrade "a whale of a mess."
Contact Ivan Penn at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332. Follow @Consumers_Edge.