Should Consumers Pay Up Front To Build Nuclear Plants?

April 11, 2012

With legislative leaders rejecting possible changes, a fight is building in the Florida Supreme Court about a law that allows utilities to pass along hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to customers for nuclear-power projects.

Four lawmakers this week filed a brief in support of an effort by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to nix the law, which is controversial in part because customers are getting billed for projects that might never be built.

The Florida Public Service Commission recently refused to allow Gulf Power Company to recoup money for land it bought in North Escambia near McDavid for a possible future nuclear power plant. The PSC denied the request because the utility has not taken an initial step — known as getting a determination of need — for such a project.

Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy Florida — the two utilities that are definitely planning nuclear projects — have hired former Supreme Court justices to represent them in fighting the case.

Reps. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, and Sens. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, filed the brief this week challenging the constitutionality of the 2006 nuclear-cost law.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda and Fasano have been outspoken critics of the law and filed bills this year to try to repeal it, but the bills were not heard in legislative committees. The brief argues that the law unconstitutionally gives too much power to the Florida Public Service Commission to decide whether to approve the nuclear costs.

“The … process has become little more than a pro forma session allowing the PSC to agree to the utilities’ requests for more funds,” the brief says. “The process amounts to issuing a blank check to (Progress and FPL) allowing them to remain in a perpetual state of preconstruction.”

Legislative leaders have stood behind the law, arguing that utilities need to be able to collect money to offset at least parts of the upfront costs of the multibillion-dollar projects.

During a Fasano-prompted discussion in February, Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Chairman Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said customers likely would wind up paying more if the utilities waited to recoup costs until after the plants start operating.

“If we believe in diversifying electricity in this state, there has to be options,” Gardiner said at the time.

Progress plans to build two nuclear reactors in Levy County, while FPL has moved forward with a similar project in Miami-Dade County. Neither site would start producing electricity for at least another decade and are not guaranteed to ever be built.

Each year, the utilities go before the PSC with proposals to recover costs from customers. The commission has approved allowing Progress to collect $86 million from customers this year and FPL to collect $196 million — though much of the FPL money will go toward upgrading current nuclear plants instead of the planned project.

By The News Service Florida

Pictured top: One of many house that now sit abandoned near McDavid where Gulf Power has purchased thousands of acres for a possible nuclear power plant. One of many Gulf Power “Posted” signs that line the roads in the area of the potential plant. photos, click to enlarge.


15 Responses to “Should Consumers Pay Up Front To Build Nuclear Plants?”

  1. David Huie Green on April 13th, 2012 10:31 am

    Whereas I never favor nationalizing (massive government theft of private property) and am not sure Mr. Evers will be in office when the secession happens.

    David for fair exchange
    and dividends

  2. 429SCJ on April 13th, 2012 3:59 am

    Your right David, South Co does not want to float any more stock to the public than they have to. Those bloodsuckers want us to bear the cost, with no dividend.

    I wonder what the ratio of pubic to restricted stocks is in the company?.

    After NWF becomes an Independant Nation, I think Mr Ever’s first order of business,
    after the trials are concluded, should be nationalizing all South Co assetts!

  3. David Huie Green on April 12th, 2012 5:32 am

    “Well, private companies DO have the power of imminent domain, ”

    Nope. Cities aren’t private companies. Private companies aren’t cities.

    “- – - the government can act on their behalf and declare Eminent domain on those landowners who do not choose to sell so holding out may get you a worse deal. They can do this as a trustee for a private company for the public good. Has not happened yet – - -”

    Yep, governments have that power, not companies. And yes, city officials can be bought off, just as you say, it hasn’t happened yet. It definitely didn’t happen in this instance because owners sold out for money. People like money. It’s hard to resist its allure, but that still isn’t force or eminent domain.

    There’s a difference between being able to make you an offer you can’t bring yourself to refuse and jailing you for refusing an order.

    David for distinctions
    and diligence

  4. NotAgain on April 11th, 2012 10:04 pm

    “None. They don’t have that power. ”

    Well, private companies DO have the power of imminent domain, so I was curious. See below:

    NotAgain for truth in journalism

  5. T on April 11th, 2012 8:55 pm

    The cost of building new power plants WILL be passed unto us consumers, sooner or later. As far as a Nuclear plant is concerned, Gulf Power can not afford the new reactors which would cost $10 billion per unit. With Natural Gas prices <$2 the new plant in McDavid will almost surely be a Natural Gas plant when one is built.

    By the way David, even though they have bought the land through private purchases up to this point, the government can act on their behalf and declare Eminent domain on those landowners who do not choose to sell so holding out may get you a worse deal. They can do this as a trustee for a private company for the public good. Has not happened yet but could easily happen if the tax base for a new plant plus the high wages is in the best county/states's interest. If you are not smart enough to see that turning $3000 farmland into a multimillion dollar tax cow, the county can milk, you do not yet understand our political system.

  6. David Huie Green on April 11th, 2012 6:18 pm

    “Was any of this land taken by imminent domain?”

    None. They don’t have that power.

    There’s plenty of land for people to live in the world. They just need power to make it habitable. Consider how many houses could be built in a 40-acre field. Could be, not necessarily should be. Further, if they build on it, they will build more homes and more of the land around them will have houses built on them.

    David for truth in housing

  7. Jane on April 11th, 2012 5:05 pm

    Maybe the ACLU ought to look into this law?

  8. Jane on April 11th, 2012 5:04 pm

    So does this mean if i want to buy some land to build something “sometime in the future” I can just ask all the taxpayers and Gulf Power customers to pay for all the expenses? This is a totally bogus law!

  9. NotAgain on April 11th, 2012 12:46 pm

    To me, one of the saddest things here is all the land that’s being bought. That looks like a perfectly good and livable home in that picture. How many people’s lives are being destroyed here? Was any of this land taken by imminent domain?

  10. S.L.B on April 11th, 2012 11:13 am

    This whole nuclear situation is a load of crap! Everywhere we turn these days, we are getting charged more and more for the existing taxes were required to pay, and if that’s not bad enough, you have the state and local gov’t trying to get new taxes approved for their wasteful spending, missapropriation of funds or to take up the slack for medicaid fraud and now this?

    Now let me get this right…..the Gulf Power plant wants to recover their debt from the residents of Escambia County Florida for a decision to purchase property for a potential nuclear power plant that may NEVER be built, and if that’s not stupid enough, once they have their hands on our money, then they have the legal right to take that money and use it on other nuclear power plants for repairs or whatever expences they see fit instead? That is so crooked and yet it seems, were at the mercy of our gov’t to simply vote YES or NO? Boy….are we ever in trouble!

  11. David Huie Green on April 11th, 2012 10:44 am

    ” Let them get a loan.”

    Or issue stock. I’m not opposed to nuclear power, in fact I favor it, but this isn’t expenses, this is an increase in the assets of the corporation.

    Since they want the users to fund the new construction, simply set it up so that all monies collected for new power plants — of any kind — be repaid by issuing stock to each user at the going rate for stock. Thus, if you paid a hundred dollars in higher power costs, you would own a hundred dollars’ worth of stock. You could sell that stock to some other investor if you wished or you could collect dividends off of that stock as long as you and it existed.

    You would have a vested interest in the success of the venture, receive quarterly reports on how your company was doing, and they would have an interest in keeping you happy since you would now own them — at least partly.

    David for cooperative ownership

  12. Fred on April 11th, 2012 7:38 am

    “Progress to collect $86 million from customers this year and FPL to collect $196 million — though much of the FPL money will go toward upgrading current nuclear plants instead of the planned project.”
    Sounds like FPL has an issue with misappropriation of funds, not that that would ever happen here , yea right. Seems like a time table should be used and if this “offset” money is not used it should be returned to the customer, oh wait that would put a damper in campaign funds for the legislators who passed this MORONIC law in the first place. I think it’s time to releal a lot of these special intrest laws, but if the legislature started doing the voters work who would the lobbyists have to bribe. Man it just keeps going round and round!

  13. morgan on April 11th, 2012 7:18 am

    Should I have to pay for WalMart to build a store? Let them get a loan.

  14. 429SCJ on April 11th, 2012 6:25 am


  15. Molino-Anon on April 11th, 2012 6:07 am

    NO! Customers should not have to pay for something that is not built, and may never be built. If Gulf Power doesn’t have the funds available to build this nuke plant, that is their issue, not mine. Our power bills are already too expensive as it is.

    If they start charging me for a nuke plant, I’ll take that extra cost and invest in a solar system that can run my home and GP can stick it up their reactor.

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