In a state that won't allow drilling off its shores because of the possibility of an accident, Florida took a bit of an unusual step this week. The Florida Public Service Commission unanimously approved Progress Energy Florida's plans to build two nuclear power plants in Levy County. The vote doesn't mean a decision has been made to build the nuke plants. Progress energy Florida officials have said they expect that decision sometime in 2009. The vote, though, is critical because Florida just signaled it needs help in meeting its electrical demand needs in the future. Progress Energy Florida has bought about 5,100 acres in southern Levy County. If it gets the green light, it would be the first nuclear power plant to be built in the U.S. in more than 30 years and it would also begin the development of the largest transmission infrastructure projects in Florida's history. The price tag: $14 billion for the two generating units and another $3 billion for the transmission equipment. The earliest the units could both be online and generating power--if everything goes like clockwork-- would be 2016 and 2017 with full power by 2018. The next step would be a filing for cost recovery with the Florida Public Services Commission and the filing of a Combined Operating License application with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Progress Energy Florida has said the cost of the nuclear project is acceptable and cost-effective given the continued climb of gas. Gas, by the way, accounts for 39% of the electrical generational demand in the state with coal currently producing 23% and oil, 24%. In the near term, according to the Consumers Alliance for Energy Security, Florida will use gas for 80% of its power generation. The acceptance of the power plants is another sign that something is brewing in Florida. The governor has said he wants to revisit the idea of drilling off the state's shores and more and more state residents are asking why Cuba can drill 40 miles of the coast of Key West and American companies can't. Stay tuned: More to come. Like the rest of the county, Florida is coming to grips with surging utility costs for heating and cooling their homes and at the pump. The political discussions there should be very interesting in the next few months. –John A. Sullivan, News Editor, Oil and Gas Investor,,