2013 – a big year for Florida’s fight against the nuclear ‘tax’

Reflecting back on 2013, the work that stands out the most for me is the campaign to repeal the advanced nuclear recovery fee, or “nuclear tax.” For years, SACE has been actively involved in protecting Florida’s electric utility ratepayers from the anti-consumer legislation that has allowed Duke Energy (formerly Progress) and Florida Power and Light (FPL) to bilk customers out of well over $1.3 billion dollars. While money was spent on nuclear uprate projects that increased output at FPL’s existing Turkey Point and St. Lucie reactors and the failed attempt to do the same at Duke’s now-closed Crystal River 3 reactor, much was spent for new reactor projects that will most likely never be built–the now cancelled Duke Levy County reactors and FPL’s attempts to build two more reactors at Turkey Point. To learn more about the history of this campaign, visit our Learn About page.

Duke Energy protest in September, photo by Kate Melges Greenpeace Field Organizer

There was quite a bit of action last year to repeal the bad legislation in Tallahassee and to oppose the unfair nuclear tax itself. There was a spirited and, at times, heated debate in the Senate and the House regarding efforts to first repeal, and then amend the law. While the amendment that passed was a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough to protect consumers. State legislators are already gearing up for another effort to repeal the law, and long-time leader on this effort, Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda introduced House Bill 4001 as the first bill to be filed for 2014’s legislative session.

Consumers and grassroots activists organized the Stop Duke Energy Rip-off group and protested, demanding a refund for the soon-to-be shuttered Crystal River reactor they’ve been paying for and also that Duke Energy stop charging them for their Levy nuclear project, which was effectively cancelled earlier this year. Decommissioning the defunct Crystal River reactor was the right thing to do, but customers have reason to be upset. The project is expected to cost $1.2 billion and to take at least 60 years. “Nuclear is neither safe, clean or cheap,” said Susan Glickman of SACE in a recent Tampa Bay Times article. “Nuclear power is expensive, even at the end of its life. And we all pay for it in the end.”

Despite all the protests, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the Duke Energy settlement agreement, leaving customers on the hook for over $3 billion for Crystal River and the abandoned Levy project even though neither will ever produce electricity for the money spent. The PSC also approved $43 million for the proposed Turkey Point reactor expansion south of Miami. Duke’s expensive Florida nuclear follies actually were chosen as the runner up for the Tampa Bay Times’ “Sour Orange” award in business columnist Robert Trigaux’s spirited column, “Rate gouging gone wild: Who wins 2013’s Sour Orange Award for sticking it to Floridians?

Bonnie Raitt (center) here with Kate Melges of Greenpeace (on the right) and myself, Mandy Hancock, at the Clearwater, FL show in December.

SACE staff and volunteers also had the opportunity to table at Bonnie Raitt’s Florida shows in Hollywood, Jacksonville, and Clearwater. We spoke with Bonnie’s fans about nuclear energy, the nuclear tax, and how renewables and efficiency can help us avoid the risky and expensive business of nuclear. This is the third time I’ve had the pleasure of  working her shows and meeting her. Last year, she came at a pivotal time in our campaign, with our legal challenge to the law before the Florida Supreme Court and in preparation for the activity that ensued during the 2013 legislative session. Read more about that here.

For 2014, you can expect us to continue our efforts to advocate for clean, safe and affordable renewable energy and energy efficiency in Florida. The Sunshine State has significant potential to become a leader in renewable energy. Now, if state leaders will jump on board, maybe Florida could stake claim to the number one solar state, instead of number seven. It’s high time for solar in the Sunshine State!

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Excuse the first post. I did not have my glasses on. Here is the corrected piece.

No surprise that the PSC gives the big utilities what it wants. The PSC is the legislatures scapegoat. The PSC is an agency of the legislature and the legislature demands the PSC do what they tell them to.

Vasilinda and Dudley are right in their efforts to repeal, but that will not happen until you get rid of the Republican dominated legislature.

In my first three months at the PSC there were no less than three threats to the PSC. If we didn’t do as they said (the legislature), no re-appointment, or a big budget reduction to the PSC. The commissioners that were there, were constantly taking recess to go talk to each other in the middle of hearings. They would go behind the walls, in the small rooms, where no one could see or hear. I saw. They were not talking about the weather. Sunshine laws ?? At the PSC??? They did all they could to hide everything from public record. I witnessed Edgar on so many occasions using two cell phones at the bench. Avoiding public records. This was done after she was caught with her aide, texting to the utility lobbyist during hearings. It’s a cesspool of corruption. The only thing that will change this, is a ballot amendment to take the PSC away from the legislature which takes millions in contributions from those the PSC is supposed to regulate. After spending years in the legislature, I never thought I would find a place more corrupt, I did. It was the PSC.

Comment by Nancy Argenziano on January 7, 2014 7:28 pm

I am a Duke customer! What Duke has done is no better than somebody holding a gun to my head and taking my money. The only difference is the idiotic Republican sellout to be biz. There is a solution: VOTE OUT THE [inappropriate expletive deleted by blog editor] REPUBS OUT OF THE GOVERNORS MANSION AND THE LEGISLATURE. Return Florida to the citizens, not whoever can give the biggest campaign contributions!

Comment by Jim Slaughter on January 15, 2014 9:19 pm

Thanks to the commenters thus far for sharing their views, opinions and experiences.

Comment by Sara Barczak on January 16, 2014 3:24 pm

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