Saying higher utility costs are particularly harmful to seniors, AARP on Thursday backed a legal challenge to Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy Florida being able to charge customers for future nuclear plants, reports the News Service of Florida.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is spearheading a Florida Supreme Court case that challenges the constitutionality of a 2006 law that allows the utilities to collect money from customers each year to help cover upfront project costs. Also, it challenges a recent state Public Service Commission decision that will allow the utilities to collect $282 million in nuclear-project costs this year. Progress is working on plans to build two nuclear reactors in Levy County, while FPL has announced a similar project in Miami-Dade County. The multibillion-dollar plants would not be able to produce electricity for at least another decade — and might never be built. AARP filed a brief Thursday supporting the legal challenge, pointing in part to the effect of higher utility bills on low-income people and seniors. It said some seniors likely would die before the plants could start operating. “Especially in areas in which the population demographics are older, such as Florida, the harsh reality is that many of the utility’s residential consumers will simply pass away before they receive any benefit for a power plant to be built at some future point in time,” the AARP brief said. Four lawmakers also filed a brief this week backing the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in the case. But legislative leaders have repeatedly refused to take up proposals to end the nuclear-project charges. Seeking to expand the use of nuclear energy, they say the 2006 law is needed to help make the projects financially feasible.