The Progress Energy logo (Pic american.redcross.org)

Progress Energy has announced plans to cancel a construction contract on its proposed Levy County nuclear plant, Progress Energy has received the right to cancel construction on its proposed Levy County nuclear power plant as part of a recent settlement agreement over its broken plant in Crystal River. (See correction below.) The company still plans to charge its customers advance nuclear cost recovery dollars, despite the cancellation — a move that state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, says he will fight tooth and nail.

According to a law passed by the state Legislature in 2006, utilities may collect money from customers for future construction of nuclear power plants, even if those plants never really get built. Fasano and state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahasee, are currently pushing for a repeal of that law.

Progress Energy’s customers will ultimately foot the $1.1 billion bill for the development of the Levy County nuclear plant, and have so far already paid for half.

“[Fasano] believes that if the plant is not going to be built, the customers should stop paying the advance cost recovery,” says the senator’s chief legislative aide, Greg Giordano. “He also believes the money they have already paid should be refunded.”

According to Giordano, Fasano believes that Progress Energy may have had the plant closure in mind when the company entered into the settlement agreement — knowing that they would be guaranteed the cost recovery funds for years to come.

“Whether Progress Energy did or did not, [Fasano] vows to continue fighting for repeal of the law using the closure as an example of how ill-used the customers have been,” Giordano says.

With the contact being canceled and the future of the federal permitting in limbo, Fasano worries what customers will ever see in return. “It is my opinion that this bolsters Sen. Fasano’s argument that the shareholders should bear the cost of projects such as this,” says Giordano. “If the plant ever gets built and online, the company will make money charging for power. The customers will have paid for the ‘privilege’ of building the plant and then will pay the monthly electric bills.”

The projected completion year of the plant is 2021 — but Giordano wonders if it will ever be finished at all.

“The money that has been paid has gone nowhere and the money saved has yet to be realized,” he says. “But in the end the customers will still have to foot the bill.”

Correction:

According to Progress Energy’s Suzanne Grant, the company “has not stated any intention to cancel” its Levy County contract. She writes:

Your story says: “Progress Energy has announced plans to cancel a construction contract on its proposed Levy County nuclear plant.” This is incorrect.

Progress Energy Florida has not stated any intention or plans to cancel the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the Levy County nuclear project. The contract remains in effect and we continue to pursue the combined operating license (COL) with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In the settlement (page 3) “the Parties” (Office of Public Counsel, Florida Industrial Power Users Group, White Springs Agricultural Chemicals, Florida Retail Federation, the Federal Executive Agencies) indicate they do not oppose termination of the contract, obtaining the combined operating licenses, etc.; however, Progress Energy Florida has not stated any intention to cancel the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the Levy County nuclear project.

The negotiation process that arrived at the settlement agreement is confidential.

The settlement, which must be approved by the Florida Public Service Commission, is a collaboration between Office of Public Counsel, Florida Industrial Power Users Group, White Springs Agricultural Chemicals, Florida Retail Federation, the Federal Executive Agencies and Progress Energy Florida.

We regret the error.

Fasano’s office tells us the senator stands by his statements about the company’s plans.

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