The Florida House on Tuesday voted down bill amendments that would have repealed or scaled back a 2006 state law that allows utilities to charge in advance for nuclear power plants that may never be built.
HB 7109 is a bill that establishes term limits for Public Service Commission members and provides for Duke Energy Florida to issue bonds to cover the $1.4 billion cost for shutting down its Crystal River nuclear plant.
Democrats offered 16 amendments but half were voted down on voice votes or mostly along party lines. Seven amendments were withdrawn and one was ruled out of order.
Since the advanced nuclear cost recovery fee was approved by the Legislature in 2006, the Public Service Commission has approved nearly $1 billion in fees for Duke Energy Florida and more than $700 million for Florida Power & Light Co.
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, a Democrat from Tallahassee, called the charges for nuclear cost recovery a “hidden tax” and a subsidy that squeezes out other forms of energy. Her bills in past years to repeal the law were not heard in committee.
“I used to be the cheese that stood alone on that one,” Rehwinkel Vasilinda told FloridPolitics.com. “Now there seems to be a great flood of folks that are on that track. I think that’s absolutely marvelous.”
Other amendments included a requirement that charter counties to approve the collection of the nuclear cost fee in those counties or prohibited the PSC from approving joint ventures for energy exploration, a swipe at the PSC for approving an FPL venture into natural gas hydraulic fracturing in Oklahoma.
Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Republican from Miami, said the Democrats’ amendments, if passed, would have killed the bill in the Senate. He said the House two years ago passed a bill with a moratorium on new nuclear projects recovering costs but the Senate refused to pass it.
“We learned our lesson,” Diaz told Floridapolitics.com. “Once the Senate has a bill and our’s is similar to it, we try to keep it as tight as possible.”
HB 7109 was amended on April 9 by the House Regulatory Affairs Committee to provide the PSC with authority to approve bonds for the Crystal River nuclear plant.
Rep. Kathleen Peters, a Republican from South Pasadena and a bill co-sponsor, said on April 9 the bill would save customers around $600 million by allowing Duke to obtain sell bonds at a lower cost than the company’s rate of return for such the shutdown.
The bill now is on the House calendar for third reading. The Senate version, SB 288, is on the special order calendar for Wednesday.
Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee.