Ratepayers in Florida are challenging Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light in a class action suit that alleges they were illegally forced to pay $2 billion in nuclear power plant construction costs for abandoned projects that were never completed.
Among the projects in contention are a two-reactor build for a plant in Levy County, Fla., for which Duke began to collect fees from ratepayers in 2008. The project, however, was canceled in 2013.
The utility is currently allowed to keep the fees for projects, which were approved by state regulators.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on behalf of 6.4 million customers, seeks to have customers reimbursed for the fees and a binding agreement that declares any fees imposed by Florida's Nuclear Cost Recovery System are unconstitutional.
“Customers of Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light Company … have been required to pay $2 billion in their electric bills for nuclear power projects, most of which will never generate any electricity or any other benefit for ratepayers,” the lawsuit says.
The fees were approved by the Florida Public Service Commission through a law passed by the Florida Legislature in 2006.
That law created the Nuclear Cost Recovery System. It turns ratepayers into “involuntary investors” the lawsuit says, claiming it “charges them interest on their own money, and never returns their 'investment'.”
The lawsuit also declares that the companies have a “monopoly over the retail electricity market in their respective territories.”
“Duke abandoned all of its nuclear power projects in 2013, and FP&L's proposed expansion of an existing plant (a planned two-reactor expansion at Turkey Point) continues to be bogged down in red tape,” according to the allegations.
Duke, which has collected $1.2 billion of the $2 billion total, said the lawsuit should be dropped, noting that four other attempts to challenge the Nuclear Cost Recovery System have been unsuccessful.
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