Lawmakers join nuclear advance fee lawsuit
A group of four state lawmakers has joined a lawsuit asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a law requiring utility customers to pay in advance for new nuclear plants, even if they’re never built.
The two state representatives and two senators plan to submit their arguments to the court on Monday. The lawmakers state that the law is vague yet enables utilities to collect hundreds of millions from consumers with little framework for accountability.
“The statute is all but devoid of clarity and specificity and should therefore be found unconstitutional,” the legislators argue.
The brief supports a case brought by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), an advocate for energy efficiency and clean energy.
In December, the organization filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court, appealing decisions by the PSC in 2011 that allow utilities to continue to collect hundreds of millions in nuclear construction fees for plants that may never be built. SACE also argues that the law is unconstitutional.
Lawmakers, led by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, have been trying unsuccessfully to repeal the law in the legislature. Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, and Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, joined Fasano and Vasilinda in the brief opposing the law.
As The Florida Independent reported, Sen. Fasano filed an amendment to a Senate committee’s energy bill in an effort to repeal that statute in February. The amendment eventually died during the committee meeting.
Fasano’s decision to file the amendment was spurred by a settlement agreement recently reached between Progress Energy and state regulators over a nuclear power plant in Levy County. The agreement specifically addresses outstanding issues with the company’s nuclear plant at Crystal River, which was closed for repairs in 2009 and hasn’t opened since.
Progress Energy’s customers will ultimately foot the $1.1 billion bill for the development of the Levy plant, and have so far already paid for half — but the company received the right to cancel construction on that proposed plant, meaning customers might be paying for something that is never built.
As Fasano has pointed out, even if the company is going to go forward with the project under its existing plan, Progress Energy has stated that the plant will not be open before the year 2021.
Florida Power & Light is also currently seeking a federal license to construct a new nuclear plant.