FLORIDA MAY OPEN DOOR TO MORE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS-Andrew Stelzer

05/04/06

As the Florida State legislative session comes to a close on Friday, one of Governor Bush’s remaining objectives is to get an energy bill passed. One aspect of the bill may jumpstart to construction of new nuclear power plants in the state, and environmental advocates are concerned that it will leave citizens and local communities without a say on the expansion of an expensive and potentially deadly technology. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer reports.

ACT-Glick “This is not a bill to give us a clean future, it will give us more coal and nuclear plants..�

Susan Glickman is with the natural Resources Defense Council. She’s been in Tallahassee for much of this springs legislative session, and one of her major goals was to get an emphasis on renewable sources of energy into the states priorities, instead she’s seen the big power companies bet their way.

ACT-Glick ‘…..sugar industry will get 5 million…meanwhile the entire solar rebate for the state is 2 million dollars…�

The 163 page energy bill, which has already passed the house, does include a few positive things, like a sales tax holiday on energy efficient appliances, and establishes a commission to advise the legislature on adapting an in depth energy policy. The senate version may set up a commission to study among other things, greenhouse gases, but Glickman say the proposal is very vague and has no timeline or goals. Susie Caplowe, a lobbyist with the Sierra club, says Florida’s efforts do not match up with other states.

ACT (not marked) “Were kind of behind the times with this..�

ACT-Callow “28 other states have plans…2 states have a better portfolio..Idaho…..Michigan…�

High on the list of concerns about the legislation, is that it would clear many of the hurdles for the construction of Nuclear power plants in Florida, something which hasn’t happened in over 20 years. The state Public Service Commission would be the only body evaluating the applications, and would have to hold a hearing within 90 days of a company's application and decide within 135 days after that. Appeals to that approval would be much harder, and nuclear plants would also be exempt from a state requirement that electric companies prove they have considered less expensive alternatives. Callow says it’s a giveaway to the electric companies.

ACT-Callow “In general the idea has been to streamline coal and nuclear, so they are streamlining the process..�

ACT-Callow “But when you’re streamlining the permitting process, the idea is to reduce public comment, and there is nothing for other technologies…�’

The Public Service Commission would be given the responsibility to evaluate whether the plant would have any detrimental environmental effects, and they would have to fast track approval of nuclear applications. Callow says that’s not worth much.

ACT-Callow “The PSC…doesn’t really do much in terms of environment..�

The only thing the PSC can consider in evaluating approval is whether a nuclear plant provided needed generating capacity, reduced Florida's reliance on oil and gas, and reduced air emission costs, which any plant would do by nature of nuclear power. Glickman says approval will be all but assured.

ACT-Glick “The utility proposes a power plant and the PSC looks through the lens of fuel diversity…they want to diversity..so it’s very likely the PSC will do its seal of approval..�

Customers could also be billed for the cost of the nuclear plant even before it was built, If an electric company closed an old power plant because it had built a new one, it could still bill its customers for the value of the old plant for the next 5 years, and a company could decide to abandon the plans for a nuclear plant, and continue to bill customers for the cost of the plant which was never built. Nuclear power plants can cost 4 billion dollars to build, a cost which Callow says shouldn’t be passed on to the tax payers.

ACT-Callow “Citizens are going to be hit with higher bills..our rates are gonna go up..this legislation has tax free holiday but electricity..�

Senator lee Constantine, the sponsor of the Senate bill, did not return WMNFs calls for comment. Calls to Progress energy were not returned either. There are already 4 nuclear power plants in Florida. Glickman says it’s been difficult to have her voice heard on the issue, for several reasons.

ACT-Glick “Because there hasn’t been a nuclear plant in 30 years, people aren’t at full strength on this issue..�

ACT ‘The utility companies are very powerful in the legislators..I counted 78 contract lobbyists, 3 former speakers, former lobby chairs, PSC, 78 people founding the hallways..and on the other side you have a few, working on several issues, its power and influence and campaign contributions..�

Glickman says that if the bill passes, she believes a new nuclear power plant will go online within the next 10 years. Progress energy and Florida power and Light have both announced plans to build nuclear powers plants in Florida, which would be the first constructed since 1983. Not even being discussed in Tallahassee, Glickman notes, is that there is still a great amount of debate about the safety of Nuclear power.

ACT-Glick ‘They have absolutely no idea what to do with it and it will costs so much..�

The House has already passed the energy bill; the State Senate is still waiting to hear it, and if the senate makes any changes, it will have to go back to the house, which could stop the bills passage because the legislative session is scheduled to end on Friday, and there wouldn’t be enough time to get it back through the House.

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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