Sen. Mike Fasano files amicus brief on behalf of Progress Energy customers

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Senator Mike Fasano and a few other like-minded legislators have filed an amicus brief on behalf of Progress Energy customers. The amicus brief (friend of the court) was prompted, in part, by a recent announcement by the utility that it is seeking permission from the Florida Public Service Commission to double its advance nuclear cost recovery fee.

In its statement Progress Energy detailed its collection of advance nuclear cost recovery dollars as well as its long-term plans regarding the future construction of the Levy County nuclear power plant. Progress Energy has asked for an overall advance nuclear cost recovery increase to $5.09 per 1,000 kilowatt-hour up from its current $2.86 per 1,000 kilowatt hour for the construction of a yet-to-be-built nuclear plant in Levy County and the repair of the long-broken Crystal River power plant.

“Progress Energy wants to nearly double its collection of advance nuclear cost recovery dollars for two plants that are not even online,” Senator Fasano states. “Crystal River has been down since Progress Energy bungled its repair in 2009. Levy County is not even built and, according to the utility’s statement, the plant won’t be online for at least another dozen years at the earliest.”

In its statement Progress Energy details that it is pushing back Levy County’s first unit going online to 2024. Additionally, Progress Energy estimates that the cost to complete the Levy plant will range between $19 and $24 billion dollars.

“Since the nuclear cost recovery concept was first sold to the Florida legislature, the cost for Levy has increased fivefold,” Senator Fasano remarks. “If lawmakers knew then what they know now I doubt very many would have supported the creation of this exorbitant fee.”

Senator Fasano believes that it is inherently unfair for utilities to shift the risk to their customers to front the costs of massive and expensive construction projects that are not even guaranteed to be completed.

“These dicey investments should be the responsibility of utility shareholders and their investment partners who profit from them, not the average ratepayer who is already struggling to pay their monthly utility bill or keep their business afloat,” Senator Fasano comments. “In Florida, allowing utilities to recover the costs of a new nuclear power plant before the plant is even placed in service is unfair to consumers and is bad public policy.”

“As a member of the Senate Communications, Energy & Public Utilities Committee I asked for the committee to call Progress Energy to testify about the advance nuclear cost recovery but leadership demurred,” Senator Fasano continues. “If the legislature is not going to take the lead, I call upon the members of the Public Service Commission to step up to the plate and put an end to this blatant legalized robbery of Progress Energy customers. Unless and until Crystal River is back online, and Levy County has been built, there should be no further collection of nuclear cost recovery charges.”

Senator Fasano has repeatedly attempted to repeal the statute that authorizes the collection of the fee but has received little support from his fellow lawmakers. Senator Fasano will continue to push for the end of the fee through whatever venue possible. For now, the Public Service Commission is the arena in which the battle will be fought.

Via Greg Giordano.

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.