Friday, April 20, 2018
Business

Progress Energy's rate increase to pay for nuclear plant comes under scrutiny

Karl Nurse was not happy to read a Tampa Bay Times story that said Progress Energy customers would be paying $49 a month in 2020 for a nuclear power plant that would not begin operating until the next year.

Late last year, Nurse, a St. Petersburg City Council member, proposed a resolution asking the Legislature to repeal Progress' ability to charge customers in advance for the plant.

That prompted a call from Progress Energy, asking for a meeting.

On Jan. 9, Nurse said, he talked with Chris Flack, Progress' executive director for external communications. Flack, according to Nurse, "just said the $49 is wrong. It's $13."

Later, Nurse got a copy of the same document the Times used as the basis for its story and noted its source: Progress Energy.

Dated July 7, 2010, the document is the utility's filing to the state Public Service Commission on the impact of the proposed nuclear plant on residential rates. The estimated monthly rate increase for 2020 is listed at $49.29.

Now that he has seen Progress' 2010 document, Nurse said, "the numbers are clear. I didn't know it was their document."

The utility never asked the Times to correct its story, which ran Aug. 5.

Progress spokeswoman Suzanne Grant said there must have been a misunderstanding between Nurse and Flack.

"Clearly, there's confusion in the conversation," she said. "It is our intention to go back to Mr. Nurse and to make sure his questions are answered and this confusion is cleared up.

"The document you have there is correct," Grant said. "I don't know that Mr. Flack said $13 for 2020."

Flack did not return a message left at his office.

Grant said that it has always been Progress' intention to attract co-owners. If it succeeded, she said, ratepayers would pay less for the nuclear plant.

"It's never been our intention to have 100 percent ownership of the plant," Grant said. "Our intention was to have joint owners."

As of yet, she said, Progress has no co-owners for the plant.

Nurse passed copies of Progress' rate document to members of the City Council's legislative affairs committee.

On Friday, the committee chair, council member Jeff Danner, showed the document to Melissa Seixas, a Progress community relations manager, who was there on another matter.

She said "she never remembered it being that high," Danner said. "She wasn't familiar with that document."

Danner said he was sending Progress a formal request to participate in the decision about the resolution to repeal the advance fee. He said he hopes to schedule that workshop meeting in a week or so.

St. Petersburg is one of a several cities across the state considering resolutions opposing the nuclear cost recovery fee, which allows utilities to charge customers for construction of nuclear plants before they go into operation.

If St. Petersburg passes the resolution, it would join Fort Lauderdale as one of the largest municipalities to urge repeal of the charges, Nurse said. Other resolutions have come from smaller cities in areas covered by FPL, the state's largest utility.

Opponents of the so-called "advance fee" say it adds an undue burden on customers for projects that might never materialize. In addition, opponents note that customers will not own the plant, a distinction that belongs to the utility's investors — who do not share in the financial risk.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is sponsoring legislation to repeal the advance fee. But so far, Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, chairman of the energy committee and the majority leader, has not scheduled a hearing.

A spokeswoman for Gardiner said the bill has been referred to committee for future consideration.

"I have great concern that our request will be ignored," Fasano said. "That's why I urge people to contact their legislators. Contact the chair.

"At the minimum, a vote should be taken," he said.

Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, filed a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network, has been working for years to have the nuclear cost recovery fee repealed. He said the $20 billion nuclear plant, which Progress wants to build in Levy County, is too expensive. He complained that Progress and other utilities continue to downplay the costs of nuclear power.

Newton said he believes the effort to portray nuclear as inexpensive is part of the reason Progress' representatives contradicted their own document.

"It would be funny, but given what we're facing, it's not a laughing matter," Newton said. "Every time they do something like this, it helps me with the repeal bill."

Last year, Progress updated its projected figures for the monthly impact of the Levy plant on rate payers.

The new figure for 2020 is up 23 cents, to $49.52.

Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Consumers_Edge.

Comments
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

The Tampa Bay Times recently sat down with Walmart director of corporate communications Phillip Keene to chat about the retail giant’s latest retail strategies and how the company is winning over customers in a competitive market.Already, two of the ...
Published: 04/20/18
Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement offers from their banks. In preliminary findings of ...
Published: 04/20/18
SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

Associated PressNEW YORK — SunTrust Banks Inc. says accounts for 1.5 million clients could be compromised following a potential data breach. The Atlanta bank says that it became aware of the potential theft by a former employee and that the investiga...
Published: 04/20/18
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18
St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

ST. PETERSBURG — Beef jerky, mayonnaise and Altoids mints were the only edible things in view inside one of the houses. There was no running water. The refrigerator was empty. A bed sat on top of the deteriorating living room floor. Cigarette butts b...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Here’s your first look at what will be Riverwalk Place, Tampa’s tallest tower

Here’s your first look at what will be Riverwalk Place, Tampa’s tallest tower

TAMPA — Developers on Thursday detailed plans for what they touted as the tallest building on Florida’s west coast, with condominiums priced in six and seven figures and a shimmering glass design they say would stand out in the skylines of New York, ...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18