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Bill would prohibit Florida utilities from charging for fracking

Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, said that power companies only care about profit.
Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, said that power companies only care about profit.
Published Jan. 21, 2015

A bill filed in the state Legislature Tuesday would prohibit Florida utilities from charging customers for investment in fracking operations.

Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, filed the measure in response to a recent ruling by the Florida Public Service Commission that will allow Florida Power & Light to collect $191 million from ratepayers to invest in an Oklahoma fracking project.

In March, the PSC will decide whether to allow FPL to expand the effort. Duke Energy has expressed interest in exploring similar proposals.

FPL has said investment in the fracking project will help stabilize volatile natural gas prices for its customers by locking in a price.

But the utilities have downplayed a significant benefit.

Florida utilities stand to make financial gains with the fracking strategy. Florida utilities currently do not profit from the cost of fuel used to run their power plants. The utilities bill customers for their fuel costs as a pass-through charge.

But the fracking deal would allow the utilities to earn profits on the fuel that powers their plants, along with revenue from the construction of the facilities and the electricity they generate. FPL's proposal would be the first effort by the state's utilities to charge customers for fracking exploration.

"If FPL's joint venture were as much of a slam dunk as the company suggests, then why aren't the shareholders putting up their money?" Dudley said in a statement. "The truth is that the power companies aren't interested in risk, and they certainly aren't interested in saving customers money. They are interested in one thing and one thing only: profit."

Contact Ivan Penn at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow @Consumers_Edge.

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