BRADENTON – Just because you don't see the line item for a “nuclear cost recovery fee” on your utility bill, doesn't mean it isn't there. Lobbyists were able to keep the controversial fee that Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy collect each month for future construction of new nuclear power plants they may never build from having to be disclosed. A new report by a Florida watchdog group shows that it's only one way that big utility companies drive policy in Tallahassee.
“Power Play: Political influence of Florida’s top energy corporations” by Ben Wilcox and Dan Krassner was released Monday by nonpartisan government watchdog group Integrity Florida. The group is calling on lawmakers to make the industry more transparent, while also holding them accountable to customers.
The report notes that electric utilities contributed more than $18 million to state-level candidates and party organizations between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles, while lobbying by Florida’s four largest electric utilities totaled more than $12 million in just the past six years.
The report also exposes the routine hiring of former state regulators and the use of firms associated with sitting state legislators by the industry, in what it describes as a revolving door of cronyism.
According to the report, the chief result is greater profits for the utilities at the expense of higher electric bills for Floridians, who have faced steady increases from each of the four corporations examined in the study.
Among the remedies being sought by the group are uniform ethics rules, online availability of IG reports and gift and client disclosures for all state and local officials, along with electric bill transparency, where bills unbundled with detailed disclosure of rate components.