Despite a few hang ups, the Florida House of Representatives passed a number of bills Wednesday including one that deals with what’s known as nuclear cost recovery. The measure is intended to put more rules in place for Florida utilities using the provision to pay for building nuclear power plants.
During a Floor debate Tuesday, members of the House amended a Senate bill aimed at putting a stop to what some call the abuse of the state’s nuclear cost recovery rules. The amendment removed a provision in the Senate bill that would have required utilities to return money to customers if they don't complete plans to build a nuclear power plant. Representative Mike Fasnano (R-New Port Richey) said the measure was hijacked by utility companies who he says were behind the amendment.
“Even though we were promise a bill would be passed to help the rate payers, this bill does nothing to protect the rate payers. What it does is protect the utilities of this state,” Fasano said.
And Fasno wasn’t alone in his criticism of the amended bill. Representative Dwight Dudley (D-St. Petersburg) said rate payers have paid for power plants that might not be built and they ought to have a way to recover some of that cost.
“This bill places very low, small hurdles for power companies to step over before they spend our hard earned money that they’ve collected from us. The legislature of 2006’s generosity toward power companies created a rule to let power companies tax us without our approval to build power plants,” Dudley said.
And Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee) wants a full repeal of the current measure.
“This bill is still continuing to be a hidden tax. It still picks a winner over all other energy things that we could do in the state of Florida. It keeps us from doing Florida branded energy," Rehwinkel Vasilinda said.
All three Representatives offered amendments to the bill Tuesday, including one that would have required utility companies to disclose how much of a person’s utility payment is associated with the Nuclear Cost recovery provision, but their measures either failed or were withdrawn.
Meanwhile, Representative Jose Diaz (R-Miami) said the measure will help constituents.
“Let me tell you what this bill actually does. First, There’s a statutory fee that’s in our statute that was based on 2006 financing rates. We’re adjusting that fee. Just that one fee will save our rate payers between $700 and $800-million per project,” Diaz said.
Diaz said the bill would also put more checks in place to ensure utilities collecting nuclear cost recovery money are moving forward with feasible and cost effective plans to build nuclear power plants.
And Diaz said neither side of the argument is happy with the bill, adding that could be seen as a good sign.
“The utilities are unhappy and the people who want to repeal this bill are happy because there is a middle ground,” Diaz said.
Next the measure will head back to the Senate, where it had previously passed unanimously. Now that the bill’s been amended, the two chambers will have until session ends Friday to negotiate the differences in the bill.
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