Federal lawsuit challenges $2B fees from Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy

By Staff Writer | Feb 24, 2016 06:07 AM EST

A federal lawsuit has been filed which challenges $2 billion in fees charged by Florida's two largest electric utilities plan projects. The lawsuit seeks to stop the fees and to recover some damages to around 6.4 million customers of both utilities.

According to Fox35, the suggested class-action court case filed on Monday seeks to end the fees asked by the companies and to recuperate the unspecified damages caused to about 6.4 million customers of Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy. The charges were enforced on ratepayers under a law passed in 2006 made by the Legislature and executed by the state Public Service Commission.

The lawsuit argues that the law violates the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause by discriminating against other out-of-state energy companies and it is anticipated by the federal energy and nuclear laws. It also suggests that Florida consumers are unrightfully charged for the nuclear projects that can be subject to massive cost overruns while these projects are really not yet completed.

In the court proceedings, it was cited that Duke Energy planned to create two new reactors in Levy County, which permitted the utility to start collecting recovery fees in 2008. Despite utilities abandonment of the projects in 2003, Duke can still keep the entire fees it has garnered, as well as the other amounts supposed practical by state regulators, as reported by ABC NEWS.

"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," stated attorney Steve Berman, which is the managing partner at Seattle-based Hagens Berman. The lawyer was even responsible for filing the lawsuit in South Florida federal court.

Centre Daily Times claimed that Berman's law firm and the non-profit Institute for Southern Studies noted that other states, which include Georgia and Louisiana, have made similar laws to that in Florida. These laws allowed the energy utilities to accumulate such fees from consumers.

In fact, as found in the state records, Duke Energy has pulled together more than $1.2 billion in nuclear cost recover charges starting in the year 2008. For Florida Power & Light, it gathered around $814 million for recovery fees.

Moreover, Duke Energy, which is located in Charlotte, North Carolina, expressed in a statement on Tuesday that the court case should be wiped out and even noted that Florida's law has been unsuccessfully challenged in four previous state lawsuits. "Duke Energy is evaluating this lawsuit and will respond based on the facts and applicable law," the statement said.

Meanwhile, if the court case is proved to be a class action, the energy utilities will be forced to repay millions for Florida consumers. The lawsuit also seeks U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas of Fort Lauderdale to stop the collection of fees by declaring the law unconstitutional.

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