Florida Power & Light/Progress Energy nuclear costs repeal rejected

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A Senate committee Monday rejected an attempt to block Progress Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light from collecting money from customers for proposed nuclear-power plants, reports the News Service of Florida. Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican who has been an outspoken critic of Progress, sought to repeal a controversial 2006 law that requires customers to pay each year for work on nuclear plants that will not operate for at least another decade, if ever. Progress has proposed building two nuclear reactors in Levy County, while FPL has proposed two reactors in Miami-Dade County. “We’ve paid a lot of early dollars to Progress Energy and have gotten nothing out of it,” Fasano said. He tried to add the repeal to a broad energy bill (SB 2094) that was approved Monday by the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee. But the committee rejected Fasano’s amendment in a voice vote. Chairman Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said customers likely would wind up paying more if the utilities waited to recoup costs until after the plants start operating. “If we believe in diversifying electricity in this state, there has to be options,” Gardiner said. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy recently announced it would challenge such nuclear-project costs in the Florida Supreme Court. Susan Glickman, a lobbyist for the group, told the committee that allowing the utilities to collect money from customers before plants are built is an “unfair practice that privatizes the profits and socializes the risk.” No utility representatives spoke during the meeting. The committee unanimously approved the overall energy bill, which includes steps to try to boost renewable energy. The vote came after senators removed part of the bill that could have led to reducing the state’s reliance on natural gas to fuel power plants. The state Public Service Commission considers a number of factors in determining whether new power plants are needed. The original version of the bill called for the PSC to consider the “need to improve the balance of power plant fuel diversity and reduce the state’s dependence on natural gas.” Gardiner said the committee eliminated that provision Monday because it was too vague. Critics last week questioned whether a move away from natural gas could increase power costs.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.