JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida ratepayers are not rolling over for the major utilities that want to pick their wallets in advance for new nuclear reactors that may never actually be constructed.
State and local officials made it clear today that bipartisan opposition continues to grow in Florida to the controversial use of so-called “nuclear cost recovery” (NCR) to force ratepayers in the state to pay in advance for costs associated with four Progress Energy of Florida (PEF) and Florida Power & Light (FPL) nuclear reactors that are increasingly unlikely to ever be built.
Today’s news conference featured a bipartisan group of state and local officials that included State Representative Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda, who initiated the legislators’ amicus brief, as well as State Senators Charles Dean, Sr. and Mike Fasano. Also joining the conference was Village of Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, who initiated the local government amicus brief. These officials, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy executive director Dr. Stephen A. Smith highlighted the following developments:
• Clear bipartisan support now exists at the state level against use of “nuclear cost recovery” as evidenced by the briefs filed by both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers, including initial supporters of NCR: Republican State Senators Mike Fasano and Charles Dean, Sr. The legislators’ amicus brief can be viewed here.
• A growing number of local anti-nuclear cost recovery resolutions, which began with the Village of Pinecrest (located near FPL’s proposed Turkey Point reactors), are now spreading across the state, including multiple municipalities in PEF and FPL service territories, including the Miami-Dade League of Cities, Yankeetown and Crestview, among others.
• Both major utilities are running scared; they know their controversial reactor projects are in trouble. They have “brought out the big guns,” enlisting former FL Supreme Court justices as part of their legal team.
• The new Florida reactor projects are clearly in trouble, plagued with cost overruns and expensive delays. This increases the likelihood that the projects will not be completed, which will be even more onerous to ratepayers since NCR costs paid by the ratepayers are not subject to refunds.
The speakers discussed their “Friends of the Court” briefs supporting the legal challenge by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) to the constitutionality of the controversial pre-payment statute before the Florida Supreme Court. State Representative Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda said: “Utility companies pursuing new nuclear power plants may do so virtually risk free, unlike any other sector in any other industry. There is no other industry that is both heavily subsidized and entirely insulated from all free market forces. The process amounts to issuing a blank check to investor-owned utilities.” State Senator Mike Fasano said: “I believe that it is inherently unfair for utilities to shift the risk to their customers, our constituents, to front the costs of massive and expensive construction projects that are not even guaranteed to be completed. These dicey investments ought to 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. In Florida, allowing utilities to recover the costs of a new nuclear power plant before the plant was even placed in service has been unfair to consumers and bad public policy.” Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner said: “It is not fair to require the Village of Pinecrest, which is only fifteen miles from Turkey Point, or Florida residents to pay for such a costly, high risk energy source that may never produce electricity. There are lower-risk and less expensive alternatives available, such as energy efficiency, and we need to focus on those approaches as we look to the future.” Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of SACE, said: “It is sad that the PSC appears willing to let the power companies unfairly tax Florida families and businesses on an increasingly weak assumption they will build new nuclear reactors sometime next decade. While this is a great deal for Progress Energy and FPL’s shareholders and executives, it is horrible for Florida consumers and businesses. We believe that this law gives entirely too much discretion to the PSC, which has been arbitrarily approving everything the utilities have asked for each year. Therefore, we are asking the Florida State Supreme Court to protect consumers against this nuclear power tax scam by declaring the law unconstitutional.”
- The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s (SACE) initial brief with the Florida Supreme Court can be viewed here.
- The Florida Legislators’ Amicus Brief filed on Monday, April 9 can be viewed here.
- The Florida AARP filed a brief today, on April 12, which can be viewed here.
- The Village of Pinecrest’s amended brief is here.
Florida’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved more than one billion dollars in nuclear cost recovery over the past three years for questionable new nuclear reactors proposed by Progress Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light, despite the fact that neither utility has demonstrated the intent to actually build the reactors. In fact, both utilities admit that no final decision to build has been made.
PEF has proposed two new reactors in Levy County, Florida with an estimated cost of $22.5 billion and FPL has proposed two additional reactors at their existing Turkey Point nuclear plant near Miami with an estimated cost approaching $20 billion. Both proposals are more than a decade from completion, if they are ever built, and have experienced repeated cost increases and scheduling delays. Ratepayers would not receive a refund if either utility abandons the projects.
MEDIA CONTACT: Leslie Anderson Maloy, (703) 276-3256, or [email protected].
EDITOR’S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of the press conference is available here. Due to the length of the conference, this file might take a few moments to load; we appreciate your patience. # # # # The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. For more information, go to http://www.cleanenergy.org.