AARP Florida urged its members this week to pay close attention to votes by Florida legislators on a controversial proposal that would allow certain Florida electric-power companies to finance risky out-of-state natural-gas exploration projects with ratepayers’ money, and charge their customers for financing the ventures.
At 5 pm Wednesday, the powerful Florida Senate Rules Committee will take up SB 1238, legislation which will allow Florida utility companies to finance out-of-state fracking ventures with ratepayer money. The bill has drawn strong opposition from AARP and other consumer groups. The Rules Committee is the last stop for the legislation before heading to the full Senate for a vote.
AARP Florida will remind its 2.8 million members on how legislators vote on the legislation during the 2018 election cycle, AARP Florida Associate State Director for Advocacy Zayne Smith said.
AARP opposes the legislation because:
- It would let Florida electric companies take hundreds of millions of dollars per year from residential ratepayers and use them to finance out-of-state natural-gas exploration projects. You, the ratepayer, would bear 100 percent of the risk of these ventures., regardless of the drilling outcome.
- The wildcatting projects would be paid for with ratepayers’ dollars as investments and utility companies would claima return on your investment. If the utility company simply purchased natural gas on the open market, the utility could recover the cost of the fuel from ratepayers but could not earn an additional “windfall.”
- No other state that regulates investor-owned utilities has allowed electric companies to charge ratepayers for natural gas drilling and exploration projects.
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Legislators from around the state are speaking out against the legislation during debate on similar legislation in the House:
Rep. Bobby Payne (R) District 19: “The bottom line is, when I go back and talk to my constituents […] they don’t feel that it is fair that there is a risk shift from the shareholders to the ratepayers.” Rep. Lori Berman (D) District 90: “The fact that this is a speculative investment is important to remember. I don’t want to do anything that’s speculative, especially for my people who are living on fixed incomes.” Rep. Eric Eisnaugle (R) District 44: “We’ve seen consumers from industry, from retail, to individuals unanimously oppose the bill, and while I do think it’s a close call, for me, that’s huge. We couldn’t find a consumer to come in here and say “hey, this sounds like a good idea, let’s try this.” The folks paying the bill, in unison, are against it.” Rep. Nicholas Duran (D) District 112: “Amendment 4 was passed in November with overwhelming support and I take that as my mandate to legislate and support policies that help our state take advantage of solar energy. I don’t think that this bill, in its language, fosters that sort of mandate. It fosters the wrong focus and future of our energy policy. I see this as us moving in the wrong direction. We’re not forward thinking. I recognize how difficult it is for our energy utilities to generate power. But, this policy does not fulfill the mandate that I think our voters were looking at and we’re going to see instead of reduced use of natural gas and diversifying our energy portfolio, this doesn’t incentivize it or create any sort of impetus, so I’ll be voting no.”