Monday, September 24, 2018
News Roundup

Still waiting for outrage over nuclear plant advance fee

The scam/hustle/shakedown known as the nuclear cost recovery fee will be argued in front of the Florida Supreme Court today.

I suppose that's good news. After all, there's a fighting chance the justices will see this piece of legislation for the shell game that it is and declare it unconstitutional.

The concern is that the court must address it as a legal argument and not as a policy choice. In other words, their hands may be tied.

And that means the governor and Legislature need to be on deck.

Because, while it was their predecessors who created this mess, Gov. Rick Scott and Tallahassee's current lawmakers have either been too gutless or too witless to correct it.

Just to recap:

In 2006, the Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush decided it was a good idea to allow utility companies to charge customers in advance for the construction of nuclear plants.

The idea was that Florida was rapidly growing and nuclear energy was the wave of the future. Agree or disagree, that was the rationale. The problem was that nuclear projects carry tremendous economic risk, and so utility companies wanted ratepayers to bankroll this gamble in advance.

That alone made it poor legislation. The swindle was in the details.

Lawmakers allowed the utility companies to keep this advance money even if the nuclear projects were bungled, delayed or never even built.

Think about the implications there.

Utility companies now had an incentive to keep nuclear projects alive forever. Even if the demand for power went down (which it has). Even if the costs for nuclear plants went up (which they have). Even if alternative energy was an option (which it is). Even if they had no intention of ever building a plant (which no one has in 30 years).

Essentially, the Legislature gave utility companies a license to steal.

So this must have been a heckuva fight, right? There must have been blood on the Senate floor when lawmakers figured out consumers were being billed in advance for an imaginary product. There must have been outrage in their voices when they discovered this law outlawed the idea of a refund desk.

Yeah, not so much.

It passed the Senate 39-0. It passed the House 119-1.

Former Rep. Susan Bucher, D-Palm Beach, was the lone nay among 159 lawmakers.

"I asked questions about it on the floor, because I didn't want anyone to say that they had no idea what this legislation was about," said Bucher, now the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach. "They all said, 'Oh, Bucher, you just don't understand it.' I said, 'Okay, explain it to me.' And nobody even tried.

"I said, 'I don't understand it? Well, I can read.' And it appeared to me to be a way to collectively open purse strings. I understood that.

Like any good con, it worked because it had the benefit of a misdirection. It was called the Florida Renewable Energy Technologies and Energy Efficiency Act and was promoted as an eco-friendly breakthrough. The stuff about gouging customers for nonexistent nuclear energy was buried in 90 pages of legalese.

So keep all of this in mind as the Supreme Court considers the case. If the court does not strike down this law, you may want to ask Gov. Scott's office what he plans to do about it. You may want to contact your local lawmakers and ask why they're not raising a stink about it.

Or you may continue contributing to the million-dollar bonuses being handed out to executives at your local electric company.

Comments
John Jonchuck set for spring 2019 trial in death of daughter Phoebe

John Jonchuck set for spring 2019 trial in death of daughter Phoebe

CLEARWATER — The day John Jonchuck was supposed to go on trial in the murder of his 5-year-old daughter, attorneys met instead to discuss a new trial date. The trial scheduled to start Monday was delayed last week after Jonchuck’s attorn...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Investigators ID Hillsborough deputy who fatally shot wife, turned gun on himself

Investigators ID Hillsborough deputy who fatally shot wife, turned gun on himself

LAND O'LAKES -- A Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy fatally shot his wife early Monday morning before turning the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said.Deputy Kirk Keithley, 39, shot and killed his 33...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Itís state or bust this season for Shorecrest volleyball

Itís state or bust this season for Shorecrest volleyball

ST. PETERSBURG — Shorecrest Prep's volleyball team underwent some changes prior to this season. While the Chargers didn't graduate any players, they did get a new head coach in Raquel Ferreira. And junior setter Annabel Happ and sophomore hitte...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Fall may have arrived, but Tampa Bay area will still feel the heat

Fall may have arrived, but Tampa Bay area will still feel the heat

Falling leaves, cool winds and pumpkin spice characterize the autumn season, which began Saturday. But the Tampa Bay area won't be seeing any differences in our recent hot streak until mid-October, and even then it could be short-lived.Temperatures t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Firefighters respond to blaze in Lakewood High School gymnasium

Firefighters respond to blaze in Lakewood High School gymnasium

St. Petersburg firefighters responded to a fire early Monday morning in the gymnasium at Lakewood High School.According to St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, firefighters responded to the school around 5:40 a.m. after a maintenance worker discovered the fir...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rick Stroud previews Bucs-Steelers

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rick Stroud previews Bucs-Steelers

The Bucs host the Steelers tonight as Monday Night Football comes to town. Will the FitzMagic continue and move Tampa Bay to 3-0? Rick Stroud breaks down the game. Also, Tony Dungy will be enshrined in the team's Ring of Honor.Plus, is there any...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Five new details on Clearwater parking space shooting

Five new details on Clearwater parking space shooting

More than two months have passed since Michael Drejka shot Markeis McGlockton in the parking lot of a convenience store.While developments in the headline-grabbing case have slowed to a trickle as it crawls through the court system, the Tampa Bay Tim...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Hooper: Donít trade progress for pennies. Reject Amendment 1

Hooper: Donít trade progress for pennies. Reject Amendment 1

A lot of Tampa Bay city and county elected officials should be sounding the alarm about Amendment 1.The amendment, one of 12 voters will find on the November ballot, increases the maximum homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000, but the devil is ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Drive for January: A look at how the top Group of 5 teams fared

Drive for January: A look at how the top Group of 5 teams fared

For the first time this season, we're examining how USF stacks up in comparison to the other serious Group of Five contenders for the New Year's Six bowl berth.The Group of Five conference champion ranked highest by the College Football Playoff commi...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Port Tampa Bay marks 1 million cruise passengers in a year for the first time ever

Port Tampa Bay marks 1 million cruise passengers in a year for the first time ever

TAMPA ó Port Tampa Bay last week welcomed its 1-millionth cruise ship passenger for the first time ever in a single year.The port hit the milestone on Sept. 17, when the count hit 1,000,524 for this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. It rose furthe...
Updated: 5 hours ago