Public interest group threatens class action lawsuit if PSC settles with Duke over nukes

10/16/13 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: PSC, Public Service Commission, Duke Energy, Progress Energy, Levy County, nuclear, nuclear power, Crystal River, Dwight Dudley, Daylin Houser


Protesters wave signs in the streets of downtown St. Pete against Duke Energy

photo by Lenzer Evans

update: the PSC approved the settlement agreement Thursday by a vote of 4-1

Wednesday Duke Energy is asking the Florida Public Service Commission to approve an agreement with Florida’s Office of Public Counsel to settle financial issues relating to a cancelled Levy County nuclear energy project and closing a nuclear plant in Crystal River. But they were met by citizens and activist groups who are asking the Public Service Commission to delay the settlement and instead hold public hearings in Pinellas County and other areas where Duke provides electricity. One was State Representative Dwight Dudley, a Democrat from St. Petersburg.

"Certainly the rate payers are the ones most involved in this and why shouldn't they have the right to be more involved? I think that you work, in some sense, in isolation here in Tallahassee, that you do need to be out in the rate payer's regions and down in the St. Pete area, holding hearings and listening to how outraged people are. The last couple of Saturdays that Duke Energy in St. Petersburg have had hundreds of people completely outraged with what's happening with the advanced () cost recovery fee, for one. Now I got involved in this process when I began studying what this advanced cost recovery was, it got me deeply interested and I read up on the history of it and learned how it was being used and how much harm it's doing to rate payers and that it's an outrage and unfair to rate payers. Now we have this folly involving an asset for Duke. You know their certainly capable of vetting and understanding what assets and liabilities they are assuming and they did that with open eyes and know what they got in. It's just amazing to me that billions of dollars are involved that there's not a greater looking into it, that the public is not invited to be more involved in it. I think you probably are well aware that I had a bill to reorganize the Public Service Commission. You might be aware of that, I'm sure that you are. I got to speak with Mr. Kaiser, who I've known for many years, regarding that and my sense in talking with the public is that you work somewhat in anonymity here in Tallahassee. That there should be greater public input. That there should be greater public involvement and the public should be, there should be some facilitation of that in order to have the public involved. Energy policy in this state, I think, is an embarrassment, that we can do so much better. Mr. Jacobs alluded to some of the problems in terms of energy efficiency, renewables, alternatives. Where is this state regarding that? How come Florida is 14th as of last October, New Jersey is number one regarding renewable alternative energy? It's an outrage."

Another critic, Daylin Houser from the Florida Public Interest Research Group, said she had a petition with 600 signatures asking for a delay. Houser suggested that if the Public Service Commission left Duke’s 1.7 million customers – rather than Duke shareholders -- footing the bill for more than $3 billion her group could initiate a class action lawsuit.

The meeting will continue Thursday afternoon.

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