Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Duke gets another sweetheart deal

The shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant continues to produce profits for Duke Energy rather than power for consumers. First Duke gets to keep $100 million that ratepayers coughed up for repairs that were so botched the plant had to be shut down for good. Now the utility gets to keep about 7 percent of another $100 million that customers will pay just to stabilize the plant before it is decommissioned. Call it roughly $7 million more in profit for Duke and salt in the wound that still feels raw to utility customers.

The news of the latest outrage involving the Crystal River plant comes as Duke officials are publicly explaining more about the decades-long effort to decommission the nuclear plant. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a hearing this week about that plan, which is expected to cost $1.2 billion over 60 years but not cost ratepayers additional money. The price tag is expected to be covered by an existing decommissioning fund. But it turns out that there is more work to be done just to stabilize the plant before the decommissioning.

As Tampa Bay Times staff writer Ivan Penn reported last week, Duke customers will have to pay some $100 million to shore up the nuclear reactor's concrete containment building. The public counsel's office, which represents ratepayers before the Public Service Commission, says a settlement agreement for the Crystal River plant always assumed some work would be required for the building to remain stable during the decommissioning of the plant. That was never clear when the agreement was announced last year and approved by the PSC.

It is tempting to blame the 2006 nuclear cost recovery law for this latest pickpocketing of Duke customers. That law enabled electric utilities to force ratepayers to pay for work to renovate or build nuclear plants even if the projects were botched — see Crystal River — or the plants were never built — see Levy County. Instead of repealing the giveaway, the Legislature only tweaked the law last year as public outrage grew over the closed Crystal River plant and price projections skyrocketed for the proposed Levy County plant that Duke canceled.

The real culprit here is last year's settlement between Duke Energy and the Public Counsel that was approved by the compliant PSC. That agreement is what enables Duke to collect roughly a 7 percent profit on the $100 million Crystal River project. It could have been worse, because Duke is generally entitled to 10.5 percent return on investment. That's no comfort to consumers, and it's another indication that the nuclear settlement is a bitter pill for consumers who will pay more than $3 billion for Duke's mistakes regarding the Crystal River plant and the proposed Levy County plant.

It's bad enough that consumers have to pay billions to Duke for two nuclear projects that will never generate a kilowatt of power. It's even worse that Duke gets to pocket millions in profits from their own mistakes. Where is the outrage in Tallahassee?

Comments
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 3 hours ago

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18