Monday, April 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Utility regulation needs overhaul

Duke Energy is poised to collect $3.2 billion from its customers for its mistakes, and no one is going to demand a full explanation of how such inept management happened. The settlement the Public Service Commission is expected to approve this week regarding two botched nuclear power projects is the grossest example yet of how the power companies control Tallahassee. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz — both of whom have Duke Energy customers among their constituents — should make it a priority to re-examine the state's entire utility regulatory landscape and create more balance toward consumers.

In other states, utility regulators might stand up to Duke Energy on Wednesday and demand a fuller explanation of its mistakes at the Crystal River nuclear power plant and a now-scuttled nuclear plant proposed for Levy County. Or Floridians could count on an effective public counsel, who represents ratepayers, to negotiate a fairer settlement. But Public Counsel J.R. Kelly, often the lone voice in Tallahassee for consumers, is cutting his losses, saying the Legislature has so stacked the law against the consumer that the settlement — which claims to help consumers avoid another $2 billion in power costs — is the safest bet.

That's hard to swallow, particularly given that Duke Energy gets to avoid explaining how Progress Energy, which merged with Duke last year, turned a routine repair job into a debacle that forced the closure of the Crystal River nuclear plant.

What the public does know is largely from a 2-year-old series by the Tampa Bay Times' Ivan Penn — not from any PSC investigation. A new document the Times acquired last week further exposes Progress Energy's hubris in doing a repair job that 34 other plants had outsourced. Ultimately, Progress Energy workers loosened just 27 tendons on a containment wall before cutting into it — 65 fewer than one expert recommended and 38 fewer than another. The result was cracks so severe they could not be repaired and the plant was shut down.

Duke also won't have to answer for the $250 million in profit it collected by leveraging the state's 2006 advanced nuclear cost recovery fee law for a proposed expansion at Crystal River and a promised Levy County nuclear plant. For years the company collected money toward the Levy plant's construction, even after it appeared obvious the project had grown too expensive. Tampa Bay lawmakers led an effort this spring that weakens the nuclear cost recovery law going forward — but they should have insisted on repeal.

Power companies already have a deal most businesses in Florida would love: a guaranteed profit margin in a region where they are a monopoly. But when the PSC signs off on this settlement Wednesday, it's setting the dangerous precedent that in Florida, utilities can repeatedly mismanage projects and it is the customers — not shareholders — who pay. Weatherford and Gaetz should be demanding change. Florida needs a new approach on regulating utilities.

Comments
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...
Updated: 9 hours ago
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: 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...
Updated: 2 hours ago
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: 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