The Florida Senate on Thursday made minor changes to its
plan to rework the unpopular nuclear fee on customer utility bills to tighten
the oversight of the state’s utility regulators and make other changes with an amendment by Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz.
SB 1472 rewrites the nuclear cost recovery act enacted in
2006 that allows electric companies to impose pre-construction costs for
nuclear projects. The amendment, added to the bill with no discussion, will
give the Public Service Commission more discretion when reviewing the company’s
justification for continuing to collect the nuclear fees from customers. It
also requires that if Progress Energy of Florida Power & Light fails to show
that it has committed enough money to a new plant, or if its intent is
unrealistic, it can’t continue to collect the money.
The Senate amendment also prohibits Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light from collecting the nuclear fees after July 1 unless they have shown proof of their intent to develop the plant. The PSC has the power to determine how to interpret intent.
Since 2006, Progress Energy has charged customers more than $1 billion to
expand the now-crippled Crystal River nuclear power plant and to start developing a
new nuclear power plant in Levy
County. The company terminated
the Crystal River project but has kept $150 million
of the money in profits from all its projects.
Florida Power & Light collected $530 million from the nuclear fee and
used the money to finance expansions to its existing power plants at Turkey
Point and in St. Lucie County. It has also proposed building two new reactors
at Turkey Point but has not obtained a permit to do it.
Voter discontent with St. Petersburg-based Progress Energy’s troubled power plant has
prompted four Tampa-area senators to take the more aggressive approach to
revamping the law, although they have stopped short of repealing the proposal.