The Florida Senate on Friday overwhelmingly passed a measure that could lead to more underground power lines, as backers point to massive outages in recent years after hurricanes hit the state. The bill, approved 37-2, would create a new process for utilities to pass along costs to customers for storm-protection projects such as installing underground power lines.
Currently, utilities pay for such projects out of money they collect through base electric rates. Supporters of the change say underground power lines would reduce outages. But critics of the bill (SB 796), including the Florida Industrial Power Users Group and AARP, argue that it would lead to higher utility bills for customers.
But Senate sponsor Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, said utilities are aware of the pushback they will get from customers for proposing increases that are “too high.” The only dissenters Friday were Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, and Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami. The bill will go to the House, where a similar proposal (HB 797) has received widespread support. The House is positioned to take up the issue next week.