State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has filed an amendment to a Senate committee’s energy bill in an effort to repeal a statute that allows energy companies to charge their customers for nuclear power plants that may never be built.
The filing was spurred by a settlement agreement reached last month 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 recently received the right to cancel construction on that proposed plant, meaning customers might be paying for something that is never built.
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 wants to change that.
Though Fasano has already filed a bill to repeal that law, his aide says the new amendment is likely to be more effective.
“[Fasano] realizes [that the bill] will probably never be placed on the committee’s agenda, as evidenced by the lack of action in past years and during the present session,” says Greg Giordano, Fasano’s chief legislative aide. “So, he decided to file an amendment to get the issue on the table.”
Fasano believes that Progress Energy may have had the plant closure in mind when it entered into the new settlement agreement.
“Why would the global settlement agreement allow Progress Energy to cancel its contract if it was not contemplating doing just that?” says Giordano. “Why should customers continue to pay for something that probably won’t get built?”
The most important thing, he says, is that the amendment be considered by the committee.
“Sen. Fasano is asking for an up or down vote on the issue,” says Giordano. “The customers deserve that.”