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Class action suit filed against FPL claims customers forced to pay unlawful charges

Lawsuit challenges $2 billion in nuclear costs

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – A lawsuit against Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light Company was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida by Seattle-based Hagens Berman.

It alleges that Florida customers "have been required to pay $2 billion in their electric bills for nuclear power plant projects, most of which will never generate any electricity or any other benefit for ratepayers."

Click here to view full complaint.

A spokeswoman for Hagens Berman told the "Call Christina" team that the plaintiffs are not available for interview.

In a news release, managing partner of Hagens Berman Steve Berman is quoted as saying, "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. We believe the consumers in this instance are being forced to pick up the tab for Duke Energy Florida and FP&L in violation of their constitutional rights."

The suit alleges that since 2008, the two utility companies have forced consumers "to pay inflated rates to fund various nuclear power plant projects…Duke abandoned all of its nuclear projects in 2013, and FP&L's proposed expansion of an existing plant continues to be bogged down in red tape."

VIEW: Turkey Point, Units 6 and 7 Application with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The suit seeks to recover "unlawful charges" for the plaintiffs and the "6.4 million retail customers of Duke and FP&L."

"We believe this lawsuit, filed by a Seattle, Washington-based plaintiffs' law firm, should be dismissed," Duke Energy spokeswoman Suzanne Grant said. "Four other lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Florida's Nuclear Cost Recovery statute have been found to be without merit and rejected by Florida courts. Duke Energy is evaluating this lawsuit and will respond based on the facts and applicable law."

Below is a full statement from FPL:

"This egregious lawsuit is, at best, frivolous and without merit. It’s exactly this type of politically motivated litigation that will ultimately cost our taxpayers and our customers, and put a heavy burden on state government. FPL's nuclear cost recovery efforts is consistent with Florida legislation with oversight by the Florida Public Service Commission. Moreover, this issue has already been litigated and rejected by the courts in this state, which this law firm knows.

The lawyers at Hagens Berman ignore the fact that FPL customers are actually avoiding having to pay $300 million in financing charges as a result of nuclear cost recovery. Furthermore, our nuclear power plants remain operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, delivering safe reliable power with zero emissions. FPL's typical residential bill is 30 percent lower than the national average and the lowest in the state. We're proud of our nuclear power plants, and they will continue to benefit our customers for decades to come.

The funds FPL has recovered to date support two projects: its Extended Power Uprate project – which was completed, placed in service, and is producing benefits for customers, and the Turkey Point 6 & 7 project, which is focused on licensing efforts.  FPL has not begun, and has not charged customers, for any construction activities for Turkey Point 6 & 7.  All costs must be deemed reasonable and prudent by the Florida Public Service Commission.

With respect to our Turkey Point 6 & 7 project, we continue to take a deliberate, step-by-step approach, seeking the required licenses and approvals needed to construct and operate the plant. To be clear, however, FPL is not pre-collecting money for construction. The funds being collected are associated with specific expenditures required by federal, state and local governments to complete the licensing process and are used only to reimburse FPL for money already spent. 

FPL is creating the option for these new nuclear units which would provide 2,200 MW of additional clean, zero emissions energy, enable Miami-Dade county to meet approximately half of its water reuse goals with one single, cost effective project and contribute greatly to lowering greenhouse gas emissions in Florida."

Related links:

Turkey Point nuclear power plant raises environmental concerns

FPL invites Local 10 inside nuclear reactors

Hearing held over new nuclear units