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Politics / Issues

Fact-Checking Scott and Crist on Duke Energy

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politifact.com

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has pledged to target candidates who he deems bad for the environment and as deniers of climate change.

And Florida Governor Rick Scott is one of the candidates in Steyer's sights.

In a TV commercial from Steyer’s political action committee NextGen Climate, the group accuses the Republican incumbent of letting utility company Duke Energy charge customers for power plants that broke down or were never built.

"We rated this one half true," said Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida. "This one's kind of complicated. It's referring specifically to the nuclear power plant in Crystal River that was damaged when they were trying to upgrade it and then tried to fix it themselves and failed pretty badly at.

"And then there was the planned plant in Levy County that never came to fruition. At the heart of the matter is a 2006 law that allowed utility companies to recover what is commonly known as the advance fee. That's a fee in your electric bill to pay for planned projects. And, in this case, Progress Energy (now Duke Energy) was collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in order to pay for both of these projects. They eventually settled with the state for $3.2 billion."

So where does Rick Scott fit into this?

"He does appoint the members of the Public Service Commission. And he could have used his soft power to kind of pick people who may have been sympathetic to customers' plight in the instance," Gillin explained. "But the governor really didn't have anything beyond that power to appoint commissioners. However, as governor, he could have asked the legislature to deal with the fee long before any of this happened, so we called that half true."

Meanwhile, in another ad, the Republican Party of Florida is charging that Charlie Crist is really at fault.

"We called this one false... all the way false," said Gillin. "That's because what the commercial was referring to was a 2008 amendment to the 2006 law that allowed utility companies to charge that aforementioned advance fee for transmission lines. It was a 2006 law he (Crist) was amending. Jeb Bush signed the original law.

"And when we're talking about transmission lines, well, the Duke Energy projects never collected any advance fee money on transmission lines. The Crystal River plant already existed and then they broke it and it had to be decommissioned. And the Levy County project never got to that stage. So, either way you look at it, Charlie Crist really didn't give Duke Energy any more money, so we called it false."