Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Business

Thank you, Tallahassee, for making us pay so much for nothing

RECOMMENDED READING


This is the day I wish this column had audio.

That would force our pathetic legislators in Tallahassee to listen to the longest Bronx cheer in Florida history.

Hey, elected clowns! Thanks for passing a law forcing Duke Energy customers to pay up to $1.5 billion in higher rates for a long proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County that will not be built.

And no, Florida customers, you're not getting any of that money back.

The good news is that on Thursday Duke Energy finally ended the charade that Levy would ever open. The meter has finally stopped, though customers will be paying down the tab for years.

With the Levy project canceled, and the broken Crystal River plant now permanently closed, Duke appears to be exiting the nuclear power business in Florida. At least for the foreseeable future.

Too bad we can't shut down Florida legislators just as easily. Especially those lawmakers who conjured up the 2006 law letting power companies charge advance fees to rate payers for high-priced and, yes, even ill-considered nuclear power projects.

Anti-capitalist from the get-go, the law also allows the same power companies to profit even when projects aren't built. Like the Levy debacle.

This borders on fraud. If our elected officials had not rubber-stamped it into law seven years ago, it probably would be.

Imagine the utility's platoon of Tallahassee lobbyists back then. They are waving campaign contributions in one hand and, in the other, a scripted defense of advance fees for their lapdog politicians to parrot.

But that image is spot on. Gouging Floridians with advance fees throughout one of the worst recessions in modern history? What leadership.

Ever since, legislators and their gelded Public Service Commission continue to lip-synch the same, lame excuse for ripping off Floridians in the name of nuclear power plants. Charging rate payers now, they clamor, means nuclear plants can be built for less money than if a power company had to borrow money in the private sector like everybody else.

Huh? The real reason the witless sheep in Tally let this happen is that power companies wanted to shift both the cost and the risk of building a nuclear plant on to its customers and off of its shareholders.

If charging people in advance for private sector projects like nuclear power plants is such a clever, money-saving idea, why has it not caught fire as a way to finance any big, long-term project?

Because it is bogus. Because only monopolies, like electric utilities, can get away with such self-serving shams. Because private sector competition should decide what projects deserve to win or lose financial backing.

Nowhere in the country do you see big Wall Street firms or banks lending billions of dollars to electric utilities for nuclear plants. The risk is too high. The recent history of building nuclear plants is plagued with fantastic delays and enormous cost overruns.

Repeatedly postponed, the Levy plant's expected costs skyrocketed to nearly $25 billion in the last seven years. That's the most expensive nuclear plant project in the country's history.

A Tampa Bay Times analysis published in May of this year revealed that, in the long run, building and operating a natural gas plant to generate electricity is cheaper by billions of dollars than the Levy plant with the same power output.

No wonder Duke has now canned the Levy nuke plant for a planned natural gas plant.

But America's largest electric company might soon ask Tallahassee for another favor.

New Duke CEO Lynn Good says she wants to change the rules in Florida so that any type of big power plant can be charged in advance to its customers. The executive sees gold by stiffing customers instead of shareholders for all mega-projects.

So, to those neutered lawmakers, prepare to regurgitate the latest pro-power company script.

And thanks for nothing.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected].

Comments
A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

ST. PETERSBURG — Not all sinister toys are as obvious as a Chucky doll. Many present more subtle threats — choking hazards, high lead content, privacy concerns. And as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks off, consumer advocates are urging s...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Indian automaker plant is latest sign of Detroit comeback

Indian automaker plant is latest sign of Detroit comeback

It has been years since Detroit, birthplace of the American auto industry, was a steady producer of the manufacturing jobs that defined it as the Motor City. But its comeback is entering a new phase.The latest milestone came this week, with the annou...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Associated PressWASHINGTON — Decades after they were banned from the airwaves, Big Tobacco companies return to prime-time television this weekend — but not by choice. Under court order, the industry for the first time will be forced to advertise the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

TAMPAIt’s been more than a century since Ybor City’s first public school was demolished on the plot of land now identified as 1311 E Eighth Ave.For the past 22 years, the popular concert venue New World Brewery took up the space and one next door. No...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

ST. PETERSBURG — World and national tragedies are changing the city’s approach to security for special events at North Straub Park.With the approach of the holidays, concrete barricades have been erected at a section of the park’s perimeter, where Fo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

TAMPA — Panama’s Copa Airlines, which four years ago became the first airline to offer service between Panama and Tampa Bay, said it is increasing its nonstop service between Tampa International Airport and Panama City to daily flights starting in Ju...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Despite Hurricane Irma, Florida hit another record high number in tourists visiting the state in the first nine months of this year, according to figures released this week.Visit Florida, the state’s tourism bureau, said 88.2 million visitors came to...
Updated: 9 hours ago
FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday followed through on his pledge to repeal 2015 regulations designed to ensure that internet service providers treat all online content and apps equally, setting up a showdown ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

TAMPA — You can collect $110,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest in the Seminole Heights killings, but for now you’ll have to make two stops.The David A. Straz Foundation announced Monday it would contribute $10,000 to a reward f...
Published: 11/21/17
Hurricane Irma hurt some Tampa Bay home sales even in October

Hurricane Irma hurt some Tampa Bay home sales even in October

Pinellas County home sales took another hurricane-related hit in October as the rest of the Tampa Bay area bounced back from Hurricane Irma.But while prices in all four counties rose once again, the rate of increase continues to slow. Hillsborough’s...
Updated: 8 hours ago