Monday, December 11, 2017
Opinion

It takes Carolina regulators to question Progress Energy's use of Floridians' money

The utilities commission hearings in North Carolina this week have got me thinking about a scene from one of The Godfather movies.

(This isn't that unusual. Weddings, restrooms, toll booths, cannoli, Cuba, tomato plants, mattresses, Christmas, and people named Moe Green also make me think of The Godfather.)

In this particular scene, Robert Duvall's character is telling Al Pacino that he has often talked to the Godfather about his future.

"You talked to my father about my future?'' Michael says. "My future.''

That's the setup. And here's the connection.

Later this week, the North Carolina Utilities Commission plans on grilling former Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson. This was the guy in charge of the broken Crystal River nuclear power plant. Not to mention the mythical Levy County nuclear plant.

And I wondered:

Does anyone else find it odd that we had to wait for North Carolina officials to finally question our executives about our money?

Granted, these hearings are ostensibly about Johnson's unexpected ouster as CEO after a merger with Duke Energy, but if previous testimony is accurate, Johnson's departure was rooted in his failed leadership at Progress.

So, again, why is this just coming up now?

Where was Florida's Public Service Commission when ratepayers were being conned out of their money by outlandish Progress policies?

Where were Florida's lawmakers when hard questions needed to be asked?

Where were Florida's governor and attorney general when someone should have demonstrated leadership and demanded accountability?

It's not like any of the news coming out of North Carolina is a shock. People are not covering their mouths in horror as if they had no idea this was happening.

We have an existing nuclear plant that has not produced energy in three years because of foolishly botched repairs, and we have a proposed plant that is already eight years behind schedule and $20 billion or so over budget.

And yet no one in Florida thought it was a good idea to sit Johnson in a hearing room and ask, "What the %#$& are you people doing?''

Yet, here's the thing:

I don't even blame Progress Energy. They're business people. They're greedy by nature. They've got a virtual monopoly going on, and they're going to fleece people for as much money as they can and for as long as they can.

It's the Public Service Commission and the politicians who are at fault. Legislators are supposed to be looking out for your best interests, and yet they've hidden under a blanket of campaign donations while Progress Energy essentially steals your money.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has tried for years to repeal a bogus nuclear tax fee but hasn't gotten a whiff of support from colleagues.

Our governor portrays himself as a tax-busting superhero, and yet we've heard not a peep about $1.1 billion in fees that taxpayers will ultimately pay to Progress Energy, and which will eventually disappear in a maze of nuclear plant mumbo jumbo.

Someone needs to tell Florida's Public Service Commission to do its job. Someone needs to tell Florida politicians to stay out of bed with big business.

Someone around here needs to be in charge of accountability.

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