Amanda Murphy, Chris Latvala team up to repeal Nuclear Cost Recovery Fee

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Two Tampa-area lawmakers want to repeal the Advanced Nuclear Cost Recovery Fee, an eight-year-old law that has cost consumers billions. The law was designed to encourage construction of new nuclear plants and to maintain older facilities but does not include a guarantee that a new plant will ever be built.

“Floridians are tired of being taxed for projects that will never come to fruition,” said Rep. Amanda Murphy.

Murphy and newly elected Rep. Chris Latvala are co-sponsoring a bi-partisan bill that will sunset the Advanced Nuclear Cost Recovery Fee in July, 2015 and would set a deadline of June 30, 2016 for collected fees to be returned to ratepayers.

Duke Energy collected more than $3 billion dollars for two projects it has since cancelled. The utility has more than a million customers in Florida.

“We look forward to reviewing details of the legislation announced today by state Representatives Murphy and Latvala once it is filed,” said Sterling Ivey, a Duke spokesperson. “We will work with state representatives Murphy and Latvala and other members of the Florida legislature on this legislation.”

Consumer groups fought the 2006 legislation and challenged its constitutionality in court. Two Duke projects provide fodder for their complaints. An upgrade at its Crystal River facility failed and Duke closed it and costs for a Levy County nuclear plant rose unexpectedly and Duke abandoned the project. This after ratepayers had been billed $3 billion.

“It’s important that we don’t confuse Duke’s issues for a statewide policy problem. There is absolutely no doubt that Florida’s nuclear cost recovery law is working well for Florida Power & Light’s 4.7 million customers,” said Michael Waldron, an FPL spokesperson.

“The reality is, repealing this law would take about $78 billion in fossil fuel savings off the table for FPL customers, make meeting our greenhouse gas emissions goals much more difficult, and kill thousands of jobs associated with the construction of the project,” said Waldron about the fee.

Last month the Public Service Commission directed Duke to credit some $54 million to ratepayers that were collected to upgrade the Crystal River facility. The advanced recovery fee of 3.42 a month will end in 2015. It was scheduled to be in place through mid-2016.

“Not only has Duke Energy charged customers for projects that have ceased to exist, but they have neglected to refund any of the collected fees to the ratepayers for these unsuccessful projects,” Latvala said.

Latvala’s proposal is House Bill 61 and has the support of the AARP Florida.

“Advance cost recovery fee is completely unfair to consumers; it allows utilities to be rewarded for poor decisions and mismanagement,” said Jack McRay of the AARP.  The group had filed a brief in a suit two years ago to have the law declared unconstitutional.

“Utilities have a state sanctioned monopoly and an advance fee shifts the risk from the shareholders to the ratepayers. And it’s a monopoly,” said McRay.