Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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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Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17