Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Finally, a step for utility customers

A Florida Senate plan won't reimburse Progress Energy customers who have been paying for years for a nuclear power plant that may never be built, but at least it would ensure that in the future, utilities can't earn profits on such failures. The vote Monday by a Senate committee to bring tighter scrutiny to the state's so-called nuclear advance fee is a step in the right direction and it is the least legislators can do to protect consumers.

The vote by the Senate public utilities committee is the first in seven years to acknowledge the fundamental flaws of the 2006 law that allowed utilities to charge consumers in advance for proposed nuclear power plants — and make a hefty profit in the process even if they failed. Under the amended plan in SB 1472, pushed by a group of Tampa Bay area senators, utilities would need to succeed at obtaining a federal license for a new nuclear plant before being able to shift much of the advance cost onto consumers. The bill would also set benchmarks and deadlines for utilities for initiating construction and reporting on its progress — something sorely missing in current law. And there is a plan for a specific review of Progress Energy's dubious Levy County project.

Such scrutiny is missing from the state's current law, which has become apparent to customers of Progress Energy, the state's second-biggest utility acquired last year by Duke Energy of Charlotte, N.C. Though the company has yet to obtain a federal license for the proposed Levy County plant from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it has charged consumers $1.5 billion in advance costs (including $150 million in profit) with little scrutiny and no guarantee the facility will ever be built.

Costs for the plant have ballooned from $5 billion to $24 billion since it was first proposed. And the energy market has dramatically changed as well, from the advent of fracking and the resulting drop in natural gas prices to the Great Recession's impact in slowing growth in energy demand in Florida. There's also growing skepticism about nuclear power since the accident in Fukushima, Japan. Just this week, former NRC chairman Gregory B. Jaczko said all 104 U.S. plants need new technology to remain safe. The situation has prompted some financial analysts to predict the Levy plant will never be built. Yet Progress Energy, and now Duke Energy, have been unwilling to say the same.

In an ideal world, lawmakers would consider an outright repeal of the nuclear cost recovery fee, as proposed by Reps. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey and Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg. Instead, the Legislature is simply considering how to keep the same outrage from occurring again — and running into resistance from utilities all the same. This isn't a solution, but it's better than the status quo. House Speaker Will Weatherford, whose constituents are Progress Energy customers, and Senate President Don Gaetz need to see it through.

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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
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: 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

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
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18