Floridians Take Action Opposing Nuclear Tax

SACE high risk energy organizer Mandy Hancock with Bonnie Raitt in Boca Raton.

From the Florida Supreme Court to Bonnie Raitt concerts, Florida’s controversial “nuclear tax” is getting a lot of attention. On October 4th I, along with my SACE colleagues and attorneys, attended the oral arguments for our high-profile challenge of the cost recovery statute before the Florida Supreme Court. The “nuclear tax” refers to bad, anti-consumer state legislation that was passed in 2006 and allows utilities to charge their customers in advance for new nuclear power generation, including proposed new reactors estimated to come online in the early 2020′s, if they are ever even built. A big decision looms as the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) is set to vote on November 26  on whether to approve this year’s utility requests of nearly $300 million more and unfortunately, the PSC staff just recommended that they should.

Just days after our appearance before the Court, hundreds of students from around the Southeast converged on Tallahassee for Southern Energy Network’s 8th Annual Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference (SSREC) at Florida’s Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). It was wonderful to return to the conference that first initiated me to the world of climate and energy activism. This was the fourth year I participated and I was impressed at what a phenomenal event was organized.

Students crammed into the room for a “False Solutions” discussion I facilitated, which turned into a wonderfully dynamic conversation that showcased the knowledge students have regarding nuclear issues. I also co-hosted a workshop attended by over 100 students on “Nuclear Power in the South” with Courtney Hanson from Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions. Though students from Florida and Georgia were familiar with the unfair nuclear tax scheme, those from other states were appalled that such a practice was even legal.

Students Rally at the Florida Supreme Court / Photo courtesy of Energy Action Coalition

The workshops pumped people up to take action. Over 200 young people marched to the Florida Supreme Court and adjacent state capitol building and held peaceful rallies. The crowd demanded an end to the nuclear tax and to get dirty money out of politics, in order to “Clean up the Dirty South.” Florida’s nuclear tax was used as a locally relevant example of the sort of bad policy that can result from too much corporate influence.

The following week, activists with the Florida League of Conservation Voters (FL LCV) in Gainesville, Florida held a press conference with a few of the city’s former mayors to bring more attention to Progress Energy of Florida’s proposed Levy Co. reactor proposals and the nuclear tax. Francine Robinson, chairwoman of the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility with FL LCV, followed up the conference with a compelling opinion piece in the Gainesville Sun.

The action continued as I left for south Florida to attend a Bonnie Raitt show in Boca Raton, Florida. Bonnie is a founding member of Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) and invited SACE to table on nuclear issues. I handed out information about Florida’s nuclear cost recovery scheme and collected signatures for an action opposing it. I spoke with a gentleman that was not only a Florida Power and Light (FPL) customer, but also a shareholder. When I asked him how he felt about paying the nuclear tax,  he answered that despite his support for nuclear energy, he wholeheartedly disagreed with nuclear cost recovery as a funding mechanism – even if it was the only way to protect his investments from the riskiness of these projects. That was an interesting perspective.

It was exciting that Bonnie Raitt gave SACE a shout out at the end of her show, telling people to support solar. Later, she said:

“It’s a complete scam that Florida’s big power companies, FPL and Progress Energy, are allowed to charge their customers in advance for extremely costly nuclear reactors that may never even be built — with no refund if they abandon the projects. While their shareholders are guaranteed a nice rate of return, Florida’s families and businesses are forced to shoulder the risk. It’s time the Florida legislature gets rid of that bad, anti-consumer law. What Florida and our country needs to pursue instead is truly safe, clean and affordable energy. I’d love to come back on tour and see a lot more solar power in the Sunshine State.”

We’re right there with you, Bonnie! Florida is my home state and I, along with many of you, share the same vision for our energy future. More solar in the Sunshine State just makes sense. Let’s hope the Florida PSC also does what makes the most sense for ratepayers later this month by rejecting Progress and FPL’s nuclear cost recovery requests.

To take ACTION now, please visit our action page on our website. Thank you!

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