Florida Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando (left) and state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City (Pic via flsenate.gov)

An amendment that would have repealed a 2006 law allowing utilities to collect money from customers for the future construction of nuclear power plants, even if those plants never actually get built, failed during a Senate committee this morning — much to the dismay of the amendment’s sponsor, state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

Fasano’s decision to file an amendment to a Senate committee’s energy bill 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.

Fasano presented his amendment this morning, during a meeting of the Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee. After explaining the history of nuclear cost recovery and how much money has been collected so far, Fasano spoke about his belief that the Levy plant will not be built.

As Fasano pointed out during this morning’s meeting, 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. Furthermore, Fasano stated, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not yet granted a permit for the plant.

When one committee member said that she felt uncomfortable making a decision that is under the purview of the Public Service Commission, Fasano pointed out that the Legislature created the statute to begin with and has the authority to repeal it. When another member asked if the amendment applied to just one utility, the senator responded that it would apply to “all utilities.”

The Alliance for Clean Energy’s Susan Glickman spoke in favor of the amendment, arguing that, in the past, investor-owned companies picked up the tab for projects like these, but that the 2006 law “disincentives” companies from taking on the full cost of the project, and the risk that comes with it.

In his closing remarks, Fasano stated his belief that at the end of 2017, when the final dollar is collected, Progress Energy will announce that the plant will not be built.

“To date, over $1 billion has been collected by two utilities for advance nuclear cost recovery in the state with no immediate return on those dollars,” says Greg Giordano, Fasano’s chief legislative aide.

The committee chair — Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando — asked for the membership to vote against the amendment and it died in a voice vote.

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