Monday, April 23, 2018
Business

Unfortunate trend: Buffett wants no-risk funding for nuclear power, just like Florida gave its utilities

Florida lawmakers' misguided 2006 gift to the nuclear power industry was a doozy: to let utilities like Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light charge their customers long in advance to build nuclear power plants that private lenders would never touch with a 10-foot pole.

Now that gift is seen as a gravy train other nuclear power players in the country want to get their hands on.

One of the nation's best-known investors eager for a no-risk financial ticket to build a nuclear power plant on the back of ratepayers is billionaire Warren Buffett. His control of Midwest power company MidAmerican coincides with lobbying efforts to push a measure in Iowa that — like Florida's 2006 law — would do away with market discipline and emboldens power companies to pre-charge their customers for future nuclear power plants.

The nuclear industry is attempting to expand the use of something called Construction Work in Progress (CWIP), also known as "advance nuclear cost recovery" for financing nuclear plants. It's an absurd concept, bullied into law in Florida by highly paid utility lobbyists who convinced our easily swayed state legislators that forcing customers to prepay for hyper-expensive nuclear power plants — Progress Energy's two proposed reactors in Levy County are $22.5 billion and counting — was somehow a good idea.

In fact, it is one of the worst ideas ever endorsed by Florida lawmakers, who remain clueless or indifferent to the extraordinary rate hikes Floridians will face in the next decade, before any nuke plant begins operation.

Maybe we should post signs along Progress Energy's 32-county service territory:

Warning to all who enter and plan to live or relocate a business here: The price of electricity, already high compared to neighboring Tampa Electric or Florida Power & Light, will be skyrocketing soon. Proceed at your own risk.

A few brave lawmakers are trying to do something about this pay-in-advance injustice. Florida Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, went to court this week to challenge the constitutionality of advanced nuclear cost recovery. And she is refiling a bill (HB 4301) to repeal it entirely.

Florida Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, regrets voting for advanced nuclear cost recovery in 2006. He's now trying to tell the people in Iowa to beware. His opinion piece urging Iowans to reject this form of nuclear plant financing ran recently in the Iowa Press Citizen.

"If passed by the Iowa Senate," James Larew, general counsel for a former Iowa governor wrote in the Des Moines Register, "the law would provide an opening for what will effectively be the largest publicly sanctioned, but privately imposed, fleecing of Iowa consumers in the state's history."

If the free market rejects nuclear power plants as too risky and too expensive to finance, why should we be building such projects?

Imposing escalating, monthly nuclear plant construction fees on rate payers for years in advance smacks of indentured financial servitude. Alas, Florida lawmakers will never acknowledge this while utilities pour big bucks into their political coffers.

Buffett's no fool. He smells opportunity. Why should Florida utilities get all the perks?

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Work starting on JW Marriott, but Water Street Tampa expects to have 10 buildings under way within a year

Work starting on JW Marriott, but Water Street Tampa expects to have 10 buildings under way within a year

TAMPA — Water Street Tampa marks the start of construction Tuesday on its first building, the posh JW Marriott hotel, but there’s a lot more to come.And soon.Within a year, developers said Monday, construction should be underway on 10 — 10! — of Wate...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Sears in Clearwater’s Countryside Mall to close in mid-July

Sears in Clearwater’s Countryside Mall to close in mid-July

CLEARWATER — The Westfield Countryside Mall Sears will close in mid-July as part of Sears Holdings’ latest store cuts, bringing the number of shuttering Kmarts and Sears to nearly 200.The store’s liquidation sale will begin on Friday, according to Se...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Foreclosure defense attorney Mark Stopa draws praise, criticism at penalty hearing

Foreclosure defense attorney Mark Stopa draws praise, criticism at penalty hearing

CLEARWATER — Homeowners from as far away as Texas and North Carolina crowded a Pinellas County courtroom Monday in support of embattled foreclosure defense attorney Mark Stopa. Facing possible disbarment for professional misconduct, Stopa also drew s...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Tampa workers accuse General Dynamics unit of underpaying

Tampa workers accuse General Dynamics unit of underpaying

TAMPA — The Tampa call center of a federal contractor is being accused of underpaying its employees. Workers for General Dynamics Information Technology filed wage theft complaints with the Department of Labor Monday, calling for an investigation int...
Updated: 12 hours ago
With lights from Toys R Us dimmed, sales plunge at Hasbro

With lights from Toys R Us dimmed, sales plunge at Hasbro

Associated PressNEW YORK — With its sales falling due to the liquidation of Toys R Us, Hasbro is looking for new places to sell Monopoly, My Little Pony and its other toys. Hasbro said Monday it will rely more on online sales, although it has also be...
Published: 04/23/18
Sears’ biggest shareholder offers to buy Kenmore brand

Sears’ biggest shareholder offers to buy Kenmore brand

Associated PressNEW YORK — Sears’ biggest shareholder appears to be pushing for a breakup of the 125-year-old company that has survived two world wars and the Great Depression. Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert — whose hedge fund has forwarded millions...
Published: 04/23/18
Lucky’s Market hosting job fairs in St. Petersburg ahead of June opening

Lucky’s Market hosting job fairs in St. Petersburg ahead of June opening

ST. PETERSBURG — Job fairs to fill more than 100 jobs open at Tampa Bay’s first Lucky’s Market start this week, the organic grocer announced on Monday. The grocery store, located at 6765 22nd Ave. N, is hosting hiring fairs Monday through Friday unti...
Published: 04/23/18
Swimmer Michael Phelps to headline Crystal Lagoon grand opening Saturday

Swimmer Michael Phelps to headline Crystal Lagoon grand opening Saturday

WESLEY CHAPEL — Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps will splash down Saturday at the Crystal Lagoon in Wesley Chapel’s Epperson development.Phelps, a global ambassador for Crystal Lagoons, will appear at the grand opening of the first Crystal Lagoon...
Published: 04/23/18
Big visitor calls at Port Tampa Bay

Big visitor calls at Port Tampa Bay

TAMPA — The 750-foot-long Ireland, one of the biggest cargo vessels ever to call at Port Tampa Bay, arrived Sunday.The Ireland is on its inaugural voyage, having left a shipyard in China for a stop in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula to pick up 64,865 shor...
Published: 04/23/18
Tampa Bay gas prices rocket 17 cents over a week

Tampa Bay gas prices rocket 17 cents over a week

Floridians are paying plenty at the pump for a combination of spring gas prices and high oil prices this week. Gas jumped 11 cents per gallon over the week in Florida, averaging $2.74 per gallon Monday, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group. That’s t...
Published: 04/23/18