Proposed Duke Energy settlement would cost customers $3B

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Public Service Commission listened to arguments Wednesday to arguments over a proposed settlement with Duke Energy that would affect customers' rates.

Protesters with a group called "Stop Duke Rip-Off" gathered outside the hearing in Tallahassee this morning and called on commissioners to stop the deal with Duke Energy.

Under the settlement, Duke's 1.7 million customers would pay more than $3 billion for expenses already incurred on the Crystal River nuclear power plant and the Levy County nuclear plant.

Duke has decided that both nuclear projects will not become operational so customers will end up paying for projects that never produced any electricity.

The protesters say that's unfair and they want the commission to move the hearing to the Tampa area.

"We need to stop the bleeding of consumers, the ratepayers of Duke Energy and cancel this meeting outright and move it to areas where people are actually living in the service area of Duke and give them a chance to speak out on the issue," said protestor Dalyn Houser. 

"I think it's outrageous that they're just going to go ahead and push through a $3.2 billion settlement that's going to go through to ratepayers without having anybody here. I talked to a number of people down in St. Pete, trying to get people to come up here, they're really passionate about the issue but who's going to drive five hours to come to a PSC hearing in Tallahassee."

Duke Energy calls the settlement fair and in the public interest. A spokesman says it will provide $388 million in refunds to customers and also force Duke investors to share the expenses at both canceled nuclear power plants.

Duke says the deal gives customers certainty on the extent of all costs and that will help the company move forward.