Thursday, May 24, 2018
Editorials

Hope for Progress Energy customers

It comes at a steep price, but finally someone appears to have been held accountable for the mismanagement of Progress Energy and its nuclear power debacles. Duke Energy abruptly parted ways this week with Bill Johnson, the former Progress Energy chief executive who was supposed to be the top official for the merged companies. If the Florida Public Service Commission and the Legislature had been similarly aggressive, ratepayers would not be on the hook for billions in costs tied to one nuclear plant that's broken and another that may never be built.

Duke made the announcement that it was replacing Johnson as CEO of the nation's largest electric utility with Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers just hours after the merger. The merged company's board, which is dominated by former Duke board members, was so eager to make the switch that it was willing to pay Johnson up to $10.3 million to go away. That is a ridiculous sum for someone with his track record. But that pales in comparison to the money on the line as Duke decides what to do with the damaged Crystal River nuclear plant and whether to proceed with the proposed nuclear plant in Levy County despite soaring costs.

Perhaps a fresh set of eyes will help Duke see what Florida regulators and state lawmakers refuse to acknowledge. First, it's time to pull the plug on building the Levy County nuclear plant. The cost has jumped from $5 billion when the project was announced in 2006 to $24 billion and rising. Conditions have changed since the plant was first proposed, with natural gas prices dropping and the weak economy reducing projected demand for electricity. The only way out would be for Duke, with its considerable financial resources and influence, to find a partner for the plant that would take some of the burden off Florida ratepayers. Good luck with that.

Second, there is reasonable doubt about whether the shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant is worth fixing. Progress Energy badly botched its do-it-yourself repairs and the plant has been shut down since the fall of 2009. Regardless of whether the plant is fixed or another natural gas plant is built to replace the power, ratepayers will be on the hook. But if Rogers acts as decisively as the Duke board did in picking him to replace Johnson, Duke's new Florida customers can only benefit.

Compare Duke's decisionmaking with the failure to grasp reality in Tallahassee. In February the PSC approved a limp deal with Progress Energy that provided a modest refund but still raised rates and let customers continue to be billed in advance for the Levy project for the next five years. And the Legislature has not lifted a finger to repeal the 2006 law that foolishly allowed electric utilities to bill customers for these advance nuclear construction costs even if the plant is never built.

This is what it has come to in the Sunshine State: The best hope utility customers have to protect their wallets comes not from regulators or legislators but from the new CEO of the nation's largest electric company. That speaks well of the highly regarded management from the old Duke Energy, but it reaffirms the toothlessness of the industry lapdogs in Tallahassee.

Comments
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyang’s nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Korea’s Kim Jong ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18