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Tampa Senate Delegation Teams to Fight Nuke Plant Charges

February 20, 2013 - 6:00pm

UPDATED: Legislators are making overtures they are moving closer to reversing a 2006 law that allows power companies to charge customer money for nuclear power plants before they are built.

On Thursday, Sens. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, John Legg, R-Lutz, and Wilton Simpson, R-New Port Richey, announced they would take on the utility giants that have been able to bill customers more than $1 billion for plants that may never be built.

This legislation brings accountability and common sense into our energy policy discussion, stated Legg.

Legg intends to bring forward a bill with the rest of the Tampa legislative delegation to both upend the law and require the power companies to return any money collected if the plans for the plant are shut down.

Expect Florida Power & Light to fight the effort.

FPL President Eric Silagy has told the News Service of Florida the law has allowed the Juno Beach-based company to upgrade already-existing nuclear plants in Miami-Dade and St. Lucie counties, while planning for the possible construction of two new reactors.

"It saves our customers tremendous amounts of money, because it is pay-go,'' he told the News Service of Florida.

The law has been the target of the multistate watchdog Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which was quick to back the Tampa delegation.

"We look forward to a robust and full-throated debate on this critical issue in the upcoming legislative session, but we are mindful and concerned of the significant financial and political influence that Florida's investor-owned utilities, in particular Florida Power & Light, exercise over our elected representatives in Tallahassee, stated SACE Executive Director Dr. Stephen Smith

Last month, House Speaker Will Weatherford told reporters that as energy demands have changed, notably the downward cost of natural gas, he was open to revisiting the law.

What looked like a great idea in 2006, in hindsight may not have been, Weatherford said during the Associated Presss pre-session summit in the Capitol.

We cant go back and rewrite time and history but I know there are people interested in this area and if the committee decides to take it up we certainly will be supportive of their efforts.

(This story has been updated to reflect the amount of money the utilities, combined, have been able to raise for nuclear plant construction.)


Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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