Crist to tap utility regulators before FPL rate hike voteby Dara Kam | September 29th, 2009
Gov. Charlie Crist must appoint – or reappoint – two utility regulators to the Public Service Commission before the panel votes on a pending $1.3 billion Florida Power & Light Co. rate hike.
Crist said this morning he has been paying close attention to the scandal-plagued panel and will move forward with his picks, due to the Senate by the end of the week.
PSC Chairman Matthew Carter pushed back the FPL vote to Jan. 11 – ten days after his term and the term of Commissioner Katrina McMurrian ends.
“Intriguing, wasn’t it?” Crist said when asked about Carter’s decision, adding that it won’t impact the appointment process. “We still have the opportunity to make these selections. I still get to make the choice on behalf of the people of Florida.”
State law requires that Crist submit his picks to a Senate committee by Oct. 3.
If he appoints new members, they would have less than two weeks to get up to speed on the FPL base rate increase, the first proposed in more than two decades, that the regulatory panel has been considering for more than eight months.
“How’s it going to work? I don’t know if they’re going to be new, number one. But if they do happen to be new they’ll have to study up,” Crist said.
Crist said that he wants the panel, which has a history of utility-friendly decisions, to be more “people-friendly.”
“I want people that understand that a balance needs to be struck and are compassionate instead to the challenges that people face as it relates to the current economy,” Crist said.
Asked whether the five members on the panel, two of whom he appointed two years ago, fit that description, Crist said: “I hope they do. I think some do. You never know from day to day.”
The governor is looking for “people of good intellect, great integrity, care and concern and compassion for the people that are in tune with the economic challenges people face right now” and support diversifying the state’s energy sources.
Crist met with PSC candidate Benjamin “Steve” Stevens yesterday, one of the six finalists picked by a nominating council comprised of lawmakers and others.
Stevens is the chief financial officer at the Escambia County Sheriff’s office.
The governor also added a last-minute meeting late this afternoon with candidate David Klement, director of the University of South Florida Institute for Public Policy & Leadership. A former journalist, Klement spent more than three decades working at the Bradenton Herald, mostly as an editorial page editor.