2013 – a big year for Florida’s fight against the nuclear ‘tax’

Guest Blog | January 7, 2014 | Energy Policy, Nuclear

Reflecting back on 2013, the work that stands out the most for me is the campaign to repeal the advanced nuclear recovery fee, or “nuclear tax.” For years, SACE has been actively involved in protecting Florida’s electric utility ratepayers from the anti-consumer legislation that has allowed Duke Energy (formerly Progress) and Florida Power and Light (FPL) to bilk customers out of well over $1.3 billion dollars. While money was spent on nuclear uprate projects that increased output at FPL’s existing Turkey Point and St. Lucie reactors and the failed attempt to do the same at Duke’s now-closed Crystal River 3 reactor, much was spent for new reactor projects that will most likely never be built–the now cancelled Duke Levy County reactors and FPL’s attempts to build two more reactors at Turkey Point. To learn more about the history of this campaign, visit our Learn About page.

Duke Energy protest in September, photo by Kate Melges Greenpeace Field Organizer

There was quite a bit of action last year to repeal the bad legislation in Tallahassee and to oppose the unfair nuclear tax itself. There was a spirited and, at times, heated debate in the Senate and the House regarding efforts to first repeal, and then amend the law. While the amendment that passed was a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough to protect consumers. State legislators are already gearing up for another effort to repeal the law, and long-time leader on this effort, Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda introduced House Bill 4001 as the first bill to be filed for 2014’s legislative session.

Consumers and grassroots activists organized the Stop Duke Energy Rip-off group and protested, demanding a refund for the soon-to-be shuttered Crystal River reactor they’ve been paying for and also that Duke Energy stop charging them for their Levy nuclear project, which was effectively cancelled earlier this year. Decommissioning the defunct Crystal River reactor was the right thing to do, but customers have reason to be upset. The project is expected to cost $1.2 billion and to take at least 60 years. “Nuclear is neither safe, clean or cheap,” said Susan Glickman of SACE in a recent Tampa Bay Times article. “Nuclear power is expensive, even at the end of its life. And we all pay for it in the end.”

Despite all the protests, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the Duke Energy settlement agreement, leaving customers on the hook for over $3 billion for Crystal River and the abandoned Levy project even though neither will ever produce electricity for the money spent. The PSC also approved $43 million for the proposed Turkey Point reactor expansion south of Miami. Duke’s expensive Florida nuclear follies actually were chosen as the runner up for the Tampa Bay Times’ “Sour Orange” award in business columnist Robert Trigaux’s spirited column, “Rate gouging gone wild: Who wins 2013’s Sour Orange Award for sticking it to Floridians?

Bonnie Raitt (center) here with Kate Melges of Greenpeace (on the right) and myself, Mandy Hancock, at the Clearwater, FL show in December.

SACE staff and volunteers also had the opportunity to table at Bonnie Raitt’s Florida shows in Hollywood, Jacksonville, and Clearwater. We spoke with Bonnie’s fans about nuclear energy, the nuclear tax, and how renewables and efficiency can help us avoid the risky and expensive business of nuclear. This is the third time I’ve had the pleasure of  working her shows and meeting her. Last year, she came at a pivotal time in our campaign, with our legal challenge to the law before the Florida Supreme Court and in preparation for the activity that ensued during the 2013 legislative session. Read more about that here.

For 2014, you can expect us to continue our efforts to advocate for clean, safe and affordable renewable energy and energy efficiency in Florida. The Sunshine State has significant potential to become a leader in renewable energy. Now, if state leaders will jump on board, maybe Florida could stake claim to the number one solar state, instead of number seven. It’s high time for solar in the Sunshine State!

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