Thursday, February 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: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18