Florida - The Florida Supreme Court will decide if it's legal for electric companies to charge customers for nuclear power plants that haven't been built.
Two companies, Florida Power and Light and Progress Energy already are, but a suit before the court claims the companies have no intention of ever building the plants.
Since 2009 Florida Power and Light and Progress Energy customers have paid for two nuclear power plants yet to be built. A 2006 law allows companies to charge customers more than a decade before the plants produce one watt of electricity.
The legality of the law was challenged in the state's highest court Thursday. A lawyer for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy told the court, the plants will never be built.
"The argument is these utilities don't intend to build, they have not demonstrated the intent to build."
Attorneys for the power companies say they will build the plants as soon as they finish the permitting process.
Steven Grimes, Progress Energy, said, "it’s incredible how difficult it is to get a COL (Combined Operating License).
Barbara Pariente, Florida Attorney: “it’s incredible how expensive it is, somebody is making a lot of money."
Raoul Cantero, Florida Power & Light Attorney stated, “Why are we going to spend all this money on licensing? We spent 27 million dollars just on licensing.”
Customers have already paid an estimated one billion dollars. The companies say the plants will be built around 2022."
The amount customers are charged changes from year to year, but right now the average Progress customer is paying $3.00 dollars a month. FPL customers pay $2.20.
Some of the money has already been used to repair old plants. FPL says the savings are already showing up in bills.
Consumer advocates says the power companies are making the most off the deal and if it goes sour they can walk away and the customers won't be refunded.
By the end of the year FPL says repairs made to old plants with part of the nuclear cost recovery money they've collected will save their customers an estimated 7.8 million dollars a month.
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