Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam declined a request for his office to study the cost of the proposed Levy County nuclear plant compared with an equivalent natural gas facility.
In a letter to Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, Putnam said he does not believe his office has the resources to perform the analysis. Putnam — the state's point person on energy matters — said he believes such a review would be more appropriate coming from the state Public Service Commission.
Fasano asked Putnam to conduct an independent study of the costs of Duke Energy's proposed $24.7 billion Levy plant after an analysis in the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday found that the nuclear project would cost billions more than an equivalent natural gas facility over 60 years.
Fasano said in his request to Putnam that he did not believe the PSC "would conduct a fair and unbiased cost analysis" because the study "would be stacked in favor of the utility."
The Legislature considered a measure that would have required the PSC to conduct a feasibility study of the Levy project, but that was withdrawn. Instead, lawmakers passed a bill that requires utilities to show a project is economically feasible and reasonable to continue collecting money from customers in advance of building nuclear plants.
Putnam maintains that the PSC is the right agency to handle a study.
"Your loss of confidence in the PSC's ability to do their statutorily mandated job is a larger issue that only you and your colleagues in the Florida Legislature are equipped to address," Putnam wrote to Fasano on Thursday.
"As Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture, I have consistently made clear that I believe increasing diversity in Florida's energy sources is critical to securing a stable, reliable and affordable supply of energy for Florida consumers," he added. "Natural gas, nuclear energy, clean coal and renewable sources should all be a part of Florida's diverse energy portfolio."
Fasano said Putnam's response is "disappointing" because he has "great respect" for the commissioner. Fasano said he believes state government has no one in leadership that will actually put consumers ahead corporate interests.
"There is no one left in Tallahassee that's looking out for the consumer," Fasano said. "Who do the ratepayers turn to? I knew Duke-Progress had power and influence inside the state's Capitol but never to this extent."
Ivan Penn can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2332.