Senate ready to hit switch on nuke plant pre-construction fees

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A refund would be required from energy companies that fail to advance any nuclear power plants planned in the future under a measure (SB 1472) that the Senate on Thursday rolled towards a final vote, reports the News Service of Florida.

But don’t expect money back for plants now in the pipeline.

“We can’t retroactively refund for things that were permissible under law, but we can for costs going forward,” said Sen. John Legg, the sponsor of the bill.

The proposal, intended to alter a 2006 law that has allowed power companies in Florida to charge for pre-construction costs, would require power companies to repay customers the advanced charges, along with any rate of return gained on the money, if the company decides to halt a future project. The proposal was initially crafted by Tampa Bay area legislators who wanted to cut off a 2006 law that has allowed utility companies to collect hundreds of millions in pre-construction costs.

If the Senate bill is approved, negotiations with the House are expected.

The House’s approach (HB 7167) to the 2006 law also allows the current charges to continue, but prohibits utilities from seeking the advance costs for any plant that has yet to receive a determination of need from the PSC.

The Senate bill would require the companies to obtain needed licenses for building before imposing new pre-construction fees. Also, after the license has been obtained, a process that could take up to a decade, the Florida Public Service Commission would have to determine if the plant remains feasible and the costs are reasonable.

Energy companies have opposed the proposals. Progress Energy Florida continues to proceed with plans to build new reactors in Levy County. Florida Power & Light has proposed a project in Miami-Dade County and has noted the recovery cost money has allowed them to complete upgrades to existing nuclear plants that will provide long range savings for customers.

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.