Occupy St. Pete goes after Progress Energy: Don't make us pay for your mistake!
About 75 Occupy St. Pete protesters lined the streets and crowded the corners in front of Progress Energyâs downtown St. Pete offices last Saturday. Reports they want the energy giant to stop asking rate payers to foot the repair bills on its nuclear plant.
Progress Energyâs Crystal River nuclear power plant sustained serious damages that caused it to go offline. One protester, Christian Haas said Progress Energy should shoulder the financial burden for the damages he believes are their fault.
âNow if it was a natural disaster or something that was going to limit our ability to have energy, thatâs something we could talk about, but if you made a mistake â not only have you made a mistake, youâre a fortune 500 company lining the pockets of a lot of high level energy executive â I donât think the average tax payer whoâs barely making it by in this economic environment should be forced to pay for that mistake.â
But Progress Energy spokesperson Rob Sumner deflected blame for the large gap in part of a concrete containment building, called delamination.
âIndependent analysis later determined that the delamination could have neither been predicted or prevented and the U.S. nuclear regulatory commission, after months of inspections, agreed.â
Progress Energy will charge $3.88 per month on a 1000 kilowatt hour residential bill in 2012 for replacement power costs while the Crystal River power plant is under repair. That rate hike was approved by the stateâs Public Service Commission. The commissionâs five officials are appointed to four year terms by the Governor, but Occupy St. Pete protester Haas said if they were elected, rate payers may be better represented.
âIt used to be an elected body, they switched it to be an appointed body. The reasons, Iâm not sure, itâs kind of obvious, they donât want to go through the trouble of an election to set regulations for the public services especially when they have super-influential public service providers.â
Progress Energy wants to build two new nuclear reactors at a site in Levy County. Nuclear cost recovery for that could cost rate payers up to $60 a month on a 1000 kilowatt hour residential bill. Bill Hurley was one of the protestâs organizers. He said thatâs a lot of money to pay for a project some customers may never even see completed.
âIf they donât fix it and they want to make their new nukes they can keep charging us for that and it could take 30 years for them to build one. And they donât have to give that money back. They can just keep it for their profits.â
Ninety-year-old Aurora Kellman has been a socially liberal advocate most of her life. She said she sees the possibility of history repeating itself as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
âWell, I think the whole system at this point is not working as it ought to. The difference in the poverty as opposed to the super rich who donât give a damn about anybody but themselves. I think itâs â I shouldnât say I think it is â I hope it is falling apart. Things get bad enough, I think we will get more and more organized as we did in the depression days.â
Some Occupy St. Pete protesters are also concerned about the environmental ramifications of repairing or rebuilding a nuke. Environmental advocate William Nicks the seventh, isnât opposed to nuclear energy if companies are responsible with building and maintaining their plants.
âThey are massive. You destroy an ecosystem. There is a subset of animals somewhere. You have to build away from residency and obviously the only places that you are going to have free to build are these forested areas, these small wooded areas still within our city boundaries; weâre going to have to tear those apart. We then get into the issue of tearing apart vital ecosystems for endangered species.â
Organizer Bill Hurley added the public has been supportive of the Occupy movement in St. Petersburg â especially this topic â even if they canât participate.
âSome people canât come out because theyâre worried about their jobs. If the come and support us at Gas, theyâre afraid that they will get fired and we donât want that.â
Utility cost recovery is also drawing attention from St. Pete City Council. In a meeting last Thursday, council member Karl Nurse said the nuclear cost recovery shifts all of the risk to ratepayers while Progress Energy gets to keep all the profits. Occupy groups from across the state came together in Orlando earlier this month where they added this issue to a list of demands to be presented to the state legislature during its upcoming session in January.
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