Debate during the monthly public meeting of the Utah Committee of Consumer Services became quite spirited while discussing draft legislation promoting the development of nuclear energy.

The proposed bill would allow the recovery of costs incurred to construct a nuclear power facility before the facility begins commercial service or under certain conditions even if the facility is not built.

"Choosing resources is everything. It encompasses the social issues, environmental issues, and the cost issues, the rate issues. It's everything," said Michelle Beck, committee director. "This is where (the committee) has to keep (its) eye on the ball."

During a September hearing, lawmakers said the measure, which is modeled after current Florida law, is only a "straw" bill to be used as a basic framework from which to begin in developing something more palatable for Utah.

But in response to that notion, Beck said, "It (the draft bill) exists in this form. This is all we have to react to."

Added Beck, "Whatever proposals we look at, whatever potential future resources we analyze, we have to fundamentally maintain consumer protections, and those aren't there right now."

The committee consensus was to oppose the proposal as it is currently written.

Another item of concern was a draft bill on low-income assistance programs funded through surcharge on utility bills. The current measure imposes a cap of 0.2 percent of the utility's Utah-regulated revenues. A new proposal would increase the cap to 0.5 percent, a substantial hike but much less than many other states whose caps are typically between 1 and 2 percent, said Beck.

"The difficult (issue) here is to find the right balance," she said.

The committee's reaction to the draft legislation was mixed. Proponents of the bill, who were on-hand to hear the comments, said they will work to address the concerns brought out by the panel.