ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Duke Energy's customers protested against the company outside its building in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday morning, calling on it to refund the $5.1 billion it took from them and did nothing with it.
The customers called themselves "ratepayers." They're angry that Duke Energy has been charging them an additional "utility tax" over the last several years that was suppose to be spent on efficient nuclear energy plants in both Citrus and Levy County. Instead, those nuclear plants failed.
"It's a rip off what Duke is doing to us," said Dalyn Houser, a Duke Energy customer and an employee with a local research company called PIRG. PIRG helped Green Peace organize the protest.
"It's the state legislators that allowed that bill to pass that basically created a blank check for Duke to just charge anything [they] wanted to build these nuclear plants, and then they pocket the money after not building the plants," said Green Peace's field organizer, Kate Melges. "Bay area residents are here to demand that Duke refund the money and start investing in cheaper, cleaner energy solutions, like solar power, in Florida."
State representative Dwight Dudley talked to the protesters about his plan to draft a bill to repeal the "utility tax" and get their money refunded.
"It's robbery without a gun," said Dudley. "I cannot believe Duke Energy can get away with this."
On October 16, the state's Public Service Commission is holding a hearing where the public can comment on the Levy County bid.
"Duke can collect construction costs until 2017 under the proposed settlement," said Melges.
Duke Energy released a statement to 10 News saying they would explain their history of investments and its future plan for Florida energy, and it said it is putting the customer first with the most affordable energy costs.