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Duke Energy is sued in Florida over nuclear costs

Duke Energy retired its Crystal River nuclear power plant in Citrus County, Fla., in 2013.
Duke Energy retired its Crystal River nuclear power plant in Citrus County, Fla., in 2013. AP

A class-action lawsuit filed in Florida accuses Duke Energy and a second utility of overcharging their customers for nuclear power plants that might never be built.

The federal lawsuit challenges as unconstitutional a 2006 state law that it says allowed Duke and Florida Power & Light to collect $2 billion from customers to cover nuclear construction costs.

Duke says courts have rejected several lawsuits on similar grounds.

Florida regulators let Duke bill customers $1.2 billion since 2008 to increase generating capacity at its Crystal River nuclear plant and begin work on a new plant in Levy County, the lawsuit says.

Duke retired the Crystal River plant in 2013 after unrelated construction problems, and also canceled plans for the Levy County plant.

A settlement the Florida Public Service Commission approved that year let Duke pass to customers $350 million to wind down the canceled Levy County contract.

The litigation filed this week seeks reimbursement of such fees to customers and a ruling that a Florida law allowing utilities to recover the costs of nuclear plants before they’re built is unconstitutional.

Duke, which serves 1.7 million customers in Florida, said the lawsuit should be dismissed.

“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,” spokeswoman Suzanne Grant said in a statement. “Duke Energy is evaluating this lawsuit and will respond based on the facts and applicable law.”

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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