A law firm filed a class action lawsuit against utilities Duke Energy Florida (NYSE: DUK) and Florida Power & Light (FPL) alleging unlawful charges to fund nuclear power plant construction.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleges Duke and FPL of overcharging customers $2 billion since 2008 through electricity price hikes to fund the costs to build nuclear power plants in the state, though some of the projects have been abandoned. The suit seeks relief for customers of both utilities, including reimbursement from the companies for costs passed on to consumers to fund the projects, a declaration binding on the utilities that the state’s Nuclear Cost Recovery System and all nuclear cost recovery orders issued under it are unconstitutional and void, and an order ordering defendants from further charges.
Read the lawsuit here.
“These two utilities have racked up huge expenses with nuclear power plant projects – some of which they completely abandoned – and have left ratepayers holding the bag,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman law firm, which filed the suit. “We believe the consumers in this instance are being forced to pick up the tab for Duke Energy Florida and (FPL) in their violation of their constitutional rights.”
Both utilities have said the matter was settled by previous state court lawsuits and that the class action suit should be dismissed.
Utilities normally cannot bill customers for construction or upgrade costs until the plants go into service, but a 2006 law allowed an exception for nuclear. Since then, the utilities have charged customers for nuclear projects, even though Duke Energy ended plans to build a plant in Levy County, and received fees for an upgrade project at Crystal River 3 that led to the permanent closure of the plant. Duke asked regulators to drop the fee in 2015, but state legislators refused to repeal the law. FPL seeks to upgrade the Turkey Point plant and build two new reactors at the plant.
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