Progress Energy is facing a lawsuit over its requirement that customers pay in advance for a planned new nuclear plant on Florida' s Gulf Coast. The suit was filed on behalf of the nonprofit group Citizens for Ratepayer Rights.

"We tried everything to get someone to listen -- the Governor, House, Senate, [Public Service Commission], Attorney General -- anyone that would help stop the madness of allowing $17 billion to be collected by Progress with no requirement that any service be provided nor the nuclear plant even be built at all," said Suzan Franks, the group's founder. "We hope the courts will see this for what it is -- a privilege and lending of the state's taxing power to a private corporation, which is prohibited under the state Constitution."

First proposed by the company in 2006, the Levy County plant would include two nuclear reactors. The chosen site is close to Progress Energy's existing Crystal River Energy Complex.

In October 2008, the Florida PSC voted to allow Progress Energy to charge its customers an additional $11.42 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours to pay for the Levy County facility, the cost of which has been estimated at around $14 billion, plus $3 billion for needed power transmission upgrades. The state certified the site last August with the requirement that the company shut down two coal-fired units at Crystal River.

The company is planning to install at the Levy County site two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors -- the design for which still has not been approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission due to safety concerns. The Shaw Group's nuclear division has the contract to build the reactors, which are supposed to be operational by around 2020.