In a friend-of-the-court filing in April, AARP asked the Florida Supreme Court to tell a state utilities regulatory agency to order two large Florida utilities companies to refund to consumers more than a billion dollars charged to build proposed nuclear plants and to find that Florida’s nuclear advance cost-recovery law is unconstitutional.
See also: Affordable Utilities Now
In the filing, AARP asked the court to send back to the Florida Public Service Commission an order allowing the Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy utility companies to collect billions from consumers for nuclear plants the companies say they plan to build.
Calling the law under which the Commission acted “fundamentally unfair and unconstitutional,” AARP Florida Advocacy Manager, Jack McRay, noted that the companies have not established their “intent to build” the proposed nuclear plants nor have they demonstrated that their nuclear plants will be built soon enough for consumers who pay for the plants to benefit from them.
“Despite charging billion of dollars to consumers , there is a very real possibility that the plants at issue will never be built and, even if built, that they will not become operational until 2022 at the earliest,” McRay’s filing said.
Charging customers for designing, licensing and constructing nuclear power plants before the plants become operational is especially unfair to older consumers, McRay said. “By approving the nuclear cost recovery charges challenged in this appeal, the Commission forces some older and low income consumers to make wrenching choices that could endanger their health and wellbeing – for example, choices between cooling and eating or between lighting and medication. Low income and older people nationally pay more than 16 percent of their incomes toward utilities,” McRay said.
Older Floridians on fixed incomes may even risk death because of high utilities costs, McRay noted. By trying to conserve energy to avoid high summer utilities bills in Florida, older consumers with health conditions can risk serious complications, he said. Between 1999 and 2003, 40 percent of those who died from exposure to extreme heat were 65 or older, McRay noted.
AARP’s Supreme Court filing supports the appeal filed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a coalition of environmental and customer groups. Four state legislators, including two Democrats and two Republicans, announced this week that they also are challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s nuclear cost-recovery statute in the state’s highest court.