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William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer

William R. Levesque

William R. Levesque is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience who began working at the Tampa Bay Times in 1994. He covers business news with a focus on energy issues and Florida utilities.

Phone: (813) 226-3432

Email: levesque@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Times_Levesque

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  1. Duke Energy Florida customers will see a new charge on their bill starting in July

    Energy

    Duke Energy Florida customers will see a new charge on their monthly bill starting in July — an "asset securitization charge" of $2.87 for the average home.

    Translation: That's the charge customers must pay to cover Duke's costs for the closure of the Crystal River nuclear power plant in Citrus County.

    The state Public Service Commission on Thursday gave its final approval on a bond issuance to pay nearly $1.3 billion over the next 20 years. In March 2017, the monthly charge is expected to fall slightly to $2.73 per 1,000 kilowatt hours of electric usage, according to Duke....

    Duke Energy's Crystal River nuclear plant, shown in this 2013 photo, was decommissioned. [Times]
  2. After $6 billion in customer losses, state okays plan to reduce utility hedging

    Energy

    Floridians are poised to lose another $560 million in 2016 as the state's investor-owned electric utilities continue to lose big at the poker table by hedging their purchases of natural gas.

    That would mean nearly $6.6 billion in total losses since 2002, and $1.38 billion since the start of 2015 alone.

    The state Public Service Commission took the first tentative step Thursday to reduce the financial carnage and approved a plan by Florida's electric utilities to cut their hedging by 25 percent. They rejected a call by critics to end hedging altogether, but said they could revisit the issue later in the year....

  3. Television and Internet provider WOW targets Tampa commercial customers

    Business

    A new television and Internet provider is dipping its toes in the Hillsborough County market.

    WOW, a provider with its headquarters in Colorado, in recent weeks has begun offering commercial Internet, data and voice services in eight buildings in downtown Tampa, the company's first Hillsborough foray, the company confirmed Tuesday.

    The company already provides business and residential service in parts of Pinellas County, where it has more than 33,000 customers....

     Television and internet provider Wow! plans to expand in the Tampa Bay area. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
  4. Allegiant Air jet makes two emergency landings in 24 hours

    Airlines

    Allegiant Air officials hoping to avoid a repeat of their self-described "bad summer" of 2015 are now welcoming June with two emergency landings of the same aircraft in less than 24 hours.

    In both incidents at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, pilots declared an emergency because of problems with the aircraft's hydraulic system.

    The Airbus 320 — tail number 228NV — first ran into trouble Wednesday not long before its scheduled arrival at the airport from Moline, Ill. A leak in a hydraulic line caused the pilot to declare an emergency, and the plane landed safely at 12:19 p.m....

    Annamaria Accetta of Tampa had family members on the Allegiant Air flight that experienced a mechanical problem and had to return to St. Pete- Clearwater International Airport on Thursday. “I think I’m about to have a heart attack,” she said. “I’m still shaking.”
  5. More Macy's customers say they were charged for purchases they did not make, then hounded by debt collectors

    Retail

    TAMPA — Dr. Sonia Saceda, a 79-year-old widow and 20-year Army veteran, said Macy's charged her credit card $1,596 for purchases she did not make and then started calling her as often as three times a day, seven days a week seeking payment.

    The calls continued, Saceda said, despite assurances from the retail giant's billing department that she would not have to pay. She said Macy's collections department also threatened to sic a lawyer on her....

    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 11:  Pedestrians walk by Macy's flagship store in Herald Square on May 11, 2016 in New York, New York. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) 639296557
  6. Frontier Communications outlines 'action plan,' bill credits to address service problems

    Business

    TAMPA — Frontier Communications' expansion into Florida, which its chief has called "very successful," is getting a big Band-Aid — an "action plan" to fix lingering service problems.

    The announcement Thursday comes after prodding from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who met with Frontier officials Wednesday to address service outages since Frontier's takeover of Verizon's landline phone, TV and Internet service April 1....

    A Frontier flag flies outside the Frontier regional office at 610 N. Morgan Street on Friday April 1, 2016, in downtown Tampa, the Frontier took over for Verizon today, resulting in outages. 

MONICA HERNDON | Times
  7. Merger of Charter and Bright House clears last hurdle; deal will close next week

    Corporate

    California regulators Thursday approved a deal allowing the merger of Charter Communications with Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable, clearing the way for the companies to close the merger next week.

    Charter, which will become the nation's second-largest cable provider behind Comcast, has already received approval by the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department....

    California regulators Thursday unanimously approved a deal allowing the merger of Charter Communications with Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable, clearing the way for the companies to close the deal next week. [Times files] 
  8. Woman's credit ruined after Macy's keeps trying to collect bogus charges

    Retail

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Karen Padgett and Macy's both agree that she does not have to pay a mysterious $111 charge made to her store credit card, the result of either a thief or a computer glitch.

    Padgett said she got Macy's sympathy even as the retail giant kept sending her the bill.

    But despite repeated assurances by Macy's since October that the balance would be removed, the retail giant kept spitting out monthly statements showing the original charge fattened by interest and late-payment penalties, Padgett said....

    “I was always proud of my good credit. I worked hard to earn it. 
Now it’s all gone. And Macy’s won’t do anything about it.” Karen Padgett
  9. Could Bright House Networks customers have problems similar to Frontier's during Charter merger?

    Business

    TAMPA — Bob Bazata's landline phone hasn't been working since Frontier Communications took over Verizon's assets in Florida on April 1. He plans to switch to Bright House Networks.

    He recently asked a Bright House employee about that company's expected merger with Charter Communications in the coming weeks. Bazata said he was told the transition would be seamless.

    It's something he's heard before — from Frontier....

  10. Peoples Gas fined $1 million over faulty inspections; customers to get $2 million in credits

    Energy

    TAMPA — State regulators Thursday approved a settlement that fines Peoples Gas $1 million and provides $2 million in customer credits for failures in its inspection compliance that included falsified leak-inspection reports.

    The Florida Public Service Commission voted unanimously to approve the settlement among Peoples, the Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumer interests, and the agency....

  11. St. Petersburg couple active in business and civic leadership die in murder-suicide, police say

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — The American flag flew at half-staff Saturday in front of the Allendale Terrace home of Gary and Marie Stempinski.

    It was a symbol of the loss of the Stempinskis, whom police found inside the house Friday, dead in a murder-suicide. But it also was a sign of community respect for the couple, known for their work in law enforcement, business, journalism and civic affairs....

    The flag flies at half-staff outside the St. Petersburg home of Gerard Joseph Stempinski, 69, and Marie Stempinski, 72.
  12. Allegiant Air flight declares emergency in Phoenix after engine failure

    Airlines

    An Allegiant Air flight landing in Arizona made an emergency landing Thursday after an engine failure.

    The failure of the No. 2 engine on Flight 175 occurred immediately after the pilots aborted a landing due to a gust of wind and as they powered up both engines to gain altitude for a "go-around," according to an Allegiant memo on the incident and a recording of air traffic control communications....

    Passenger aircraft with Allegiant Air's fleet are parked on the tarmac at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. An Allegiant flight made an emergency landing Thursday in Phoenix after experiencing engine failure.

  13. FAA confirms it is reviewing Allegiant Air operations

    Airlines

    The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed Wednesday that it is conducting a detailed, 90-day inspection of Allegiant Air's operations in response to "various internal issues" tied to maintenance and safety.

    Such a comprehensive review is normally conducted at all airlines every five years. But the FAA said it moved up its review of Allegiant by nearly two years to ensure the airline has remedied problems in operations....

    Maurice Gallagher Jr. is CEO of Allegiant.
  14. Florida's electric utilities agree to reduce fuel hedging by 25 percent

    Energy

    The state's electric utilities have unexpectedly volunteered to limit by up to 25 percent their hedging the price of fuel after $6 billion in losses for consumers since 2002.

    But the utilities do not directly say they are doing so to save money.

    In fact, they argue in an April 22 filing with the Florida Public Service Commission that the practice of hedging still benefits customers by reducing wide swings in customer bills. And the PSC has agreed....

    Florida's electric utilities say they will reduce fuel hedging by 25 percent. The utilities have lost billions in hedging, partly because of the decreasing cost of natural gas. These workers in Pennsylvania were working on a natural gas valve at a hydraulic fracturing site. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
  15. Lawsuit: Allegiant Air pilot fired because he's too old

    Airlines

    An Allegiant Air pilot who was fired in 2014 accuses the airline of age discrimination, alleging in a lawsuit filed Monday that he was terminated to make way for younger pilots.

    Charles E. Roberts filed suit in Hillsborough Circuit Court, seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages for wrongful termination by the airline with headquarters in Las Vegas.

    The suit said the airline is engaged in a continuing pattern of age discrimination....

    A passenger aircraft with Allegiant Air's fleet is parked on the tarmac at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. Allegiant's traffic accounts for 95 percent of customer traffic at the airport. A former pilot says he was fired by Allegiant because he is too old and the airline, which has had a number of high profile maintenance problems, wants younger, less-experienced pilots. [Times]