MIAMI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today two Florida utility companies – Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power and Light (FP&L) – were hit with a class-action lawsuit from Florida ratepayers alleging that the energy suppliers force millions of Florida customers to pay unlawful charges in connection with their electricity rates to fund the companies’ nuclear power plant projects, some of which have been abandoned, according to consumer-rights law firm Hagens Berman.
The suit filed Feb. 22, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida accuses Duke Energy and FP&L of overcharging through unconstitutional price hikes that increase customers’ electricity bills to fund nuclear construction costs, and according to public information, the two utilities have been authorized to collect hundreds of millions in nuclear project costs through rate hikes.
“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,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “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 seeks relief for anyone who is a customer of either of the utility companies, including reimbursement from the companies for costs passed onto the customers to fund the companies’ nuclear projects, a declaration binding on defendants that the Nuclear Cost Recovery System and all nuclear cost recovery orders issued under it are unconstitutional and void, and an order enjoining defendants from further unlawful charges.
The lawsuit alleges that since Nov. 12, 2008, Duke and FP&L ratepayers have been forced to pay unlawful charges 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, according to the complaint. The suit lists as an example that Duke abandoned a nuclear power plant in Levy County, which reportedly cost Florida ratepayers $1.3 billion, and that full amount has not yet been collected.
According to the suit, the Nuclear Cost Recovery System facially discriminates against electricity producers outside of Florida and violates the Constitution’s dormant Commerce Clause. The two companies have benefitted from this, the suit states, through millions of dollars in recovery costs they received from ratepayers. In addition, the complaint states that the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the Energy Policy Act of 2005 preempt the Nuclear Cost Recovery System.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in 10 cities. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.