FPL rate hike hearing to go on, regulators decideby Dara Kam | September 14th, 2009
Florida Power & Light’s proposed $1.3 billion rate hike hearing will resume Wednesday as planned despite a powerful GOP senator’s request that that case and another be put on hold.
“It’s laughable. It’s laughable. You would think it would be a joke or a hoax if this wasn’t so serious,” Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said of Imhof’s response.
Fasano’s district is almost exclusively served by Progress Energy Florida, which is seeking a $500 million base rate increase.
“I think that’s a sad response when you hear about the coziness they have with the utility companies but they can’t respond in a better way to a sitting senator who has concerns about his citizens and the rate increase,” Fasano said.
Imhof is the latest PSC employee to jump ship. He resigned on Friday and is going to work for the Florida House. The PSC’s lobbyist Ryder Rudd resigned last week after an internal investigation could not prove he violated state laws or rules by attending a Kentucky Derby party at the Palm Beach Gardens home of FPL executive Ed Tancer.
Since then, the commission has fended off conflict-of-interest concerns concerning communications, conferences and dinners.
Commissioner Nancy Argenziano fired her aide for giving his secret Blackberry PIN number to FPL attorney Natalie Smith and two other commissioners suspended theirs with pay for the same reason. PINs allow Blackberry users to send messages that don’t leave a paper trail.
PSC Chairman Matthew Carter last week banned the use of PINs or other communication methods that don’t create a public record.
Fasano had asked Carter to indefinitely postpone both cases until the allegations of coziness between regulators and the utilities they oversee are resolved.
Fasano said he plans to file legislation next year that will allow voters to decide whether they want the PSC, a five-member panel now appointed by the governor, to revert to an elected panel as it once was.
Gov. Charlie Crist has to make two appointments before Jan. 1 when two commissioners’ terms expire. Carter and Commissioner Katrina McMurrian are included in a list of six names given to Crist earlier this month.
Crist today said that the appointments or reappointments could hinge on the rate case votes.
Also today, an intervenor in the FPL rate case asked that McMurrian withdraw from the case because she was a panelist at a conference dealing with issues involved in the rate hearings and was a guest at a dinner that an FPL executive also attended.
McMurrian last week proposed that all future communications between the panel and their staff and utility representatives be in writing and posted on the agency’s web site.