Florida Citizens Raise Pitchforks and Torches, Protesting Utilities Gone Wild

Chris Carnevale | November 4, 2014 | Energy Policy, Florida

Last Wednesday, 200 or so St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay Area residents raised their pitchforks in protest outside Duke Energy Florida’s headquarters in St. Petersburg. The protest was in response to years of Duke’s blatant disregard for customers’ interests, including gross mismanagement of the Crystal River nuclear plant and canceled Levy County nuclear plant (costing customers $3 billion), corrupt participation in the political process, bill overcharges, and hostility toward clean energy sources such as solar and energy efficiency, and other grievances. SACE hosted the protest, spurred by what our executive director, Stephen Smith, wrote last week was the “utilities’ arrogance and refusal to engage in serious discussion.”

Duke customers are sick and tired of the the power company “sticking it to them,” so the protest gave some of them the opportunity to “stick it to their power bill” by pitchforking an oversized replica of a real Duke Energy power bill. Also, SACE gave participants a “refund” for one month of the nuclear tax they are paying each month to Duke for the non-existent Levy County nuclear plant or a free lunch–since utilities aren’t the only ones who should get a free lunch.

Mary Wilkerson, owner of Gulfside Resorts in Indian Rocks Beach, speaks about how billing overcharges and higher fees on energy bills will cost her business and eventually have to be passed on to customers.

Speakers at the protest included Darden Rice and Karl Nurse, St. Petersburg City Council members; Mary Wilkerson, owner of Gulfside Resorts in Indian Rocks Beach; Debbie Dooley, co-founder of the Green Tea Coalition and co-founder of Conservatives For Energy Freedom; Tory Perfetti, Florida Director of Conservative for Energy Freedom; State Representative Dwight Dudley; and SACE’s Executive Director, Stephen Smith, and Florida Director, Susan Glickman. The speeches echoed similar sentiments that Duke is failing its customers time and again by prioritizing shareholder profits at customers’ expense, manipulating the political process via campaign contributions and lobbying, and stifling customer choice, the free market, and positive economic development by blocking opportunities for clean energy deployment.

As Stephen Smith said in the blog last week, “we believe that in a free society, customers and citizens have a right to express themselves clearly and strongly.” This statement was reinforced by St. Petersburg City Councilmember Darden Rice, who said that citizens need to use the power of the vote this election season, to ensure that leaders in Tallahassee are actually “watch dogs looking out over the utilities” rather than “meek lapdogs that let utilities like Duke Energy rip off the ratepayers.”

Dozens of photos from the event are in our Facebook album.

Chris Carnevale
Chris is SACE’s Climate Advocacy Director. Chris joined the SACE staff in 2011 to help with building public understanding and engagement around clean energy solutions to the climate crisis. Chris…
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