PSC “about to implode” says Fasanoby Dara Kam | September 8th, 2009
Fasano, who chairs the Senate Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee, asked Senate President Jeff Atwater to order an ethics investigation into whether the Public Service Commission and its staff are too cozy with the industry it regulates.
“You have a regulatory body that can’t even regulate themselves let alone regulate a multi-billion dollar utility company that’s asking for a 30 percent rate increase,” Fasano, R-New Port Richey said.
Attorney General Bill McCollum earlier today said his office is “looking into” problems at the regulatory agency and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently conducting an informal investigation.
The PSC is considering rate hikes for both Florida Power & Light Co. and Progress Energy and a proposed FPL natural gas pipeline that would altogether raise customers’ rates by more than $3 billion.
PSC staffer Ryder Rudd was pulled off all FPL cases after it was learned that he attended a Kentucky Derby party at the Palm Beach Gardens home of FPL VP Ed Tancer. An internal investigation found that he may have broken the agency’s ethics rules but could not prove it.
This weekend, The Miami Herald reported that other PSC aides had given secret Blackberry PIN numbers to an FPL attorney, prompting Commissioner Nancy Argenziano to fire her aide and Commissioner Lisa Edgar to put hers on leave.
‘From the Commission’s chief lobbyist attending a party with executives from Florida Power & Light, to the sharing of Blackberry PINs between commissioners, staff and utility executives, the appearance of impropriety has become impropriety itself.
‘If you throw into the mix the fact that two of the five sitting commissioners are up for possible reappointment in the midst of the rate case it becomes evident that disaster is in the making. I have publically asked the governor to not reappoint the two sitting commissioners until the rate cases have been disposed of,” Fasano wrote to Atwater asking for the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee investigation. The committee has to confirm Gov. Charlie Crist’s nominations for the commission.
PSC Chairman Matthew Carter last week denied the regulators were too close to the utilities.
Read Fasano’s entire letter to Atwater after the jump.
September 8, 2009
The Honorable Jeff Atwater
409 The Capitol
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Dear President Atwater:
You have no doubt read the many articles from newspapers all around the state regarding the questionable actions taking place at the Florida Public Service Commission. The one entity that the utility customer has in place to watch out for their interests has been plagued by allegations of wrongdoing and ex-parte communications between staff, commissioners and utility executives. It is unfortunate that the agency tasked to make certain that a proper balance between the needs of the business community and the utility customer is maintained is so obviously skewed towards the utilities.
Right now Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy Florida have pending rate increase applications that are the largest in recent memory. Such applications should be considered fully in the open and should not be tainted with the questionable activity that has recently come to light. From the Commission’s chief lobbyist attending a party with executives from Florida Power & Light, to the sharing of Blackberry PINs between commissioners, staff and utility executives, the appearance of impropriety has become impropriety itself.
If you throw into the mix the fact that two of the five sitting commissioners are up for possible reappointment in the midst of the rate case it becomes evident that disaster is in the making.
I have publically asked the governor to not reappoint the two sitting commissioners until the rate cases have been disposed of. It is his decision, based upon the timeframe within which he is required to act by statute, to make the determination that he believes is appropriate. However, I believe that the Florida Senate must do all within its power to protect the constituents who rely on us as a body to stand up and speak for them.
I respectfully request that you consider allowing the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee to meet for the purpose of questioning, under oath, Public Service Commission staff and commission members. These individuals who are tasked with making literally billion dollar decisions need to be held accountable for their actions. It is my belief that we move away from news articles in which innuendo and rumor are rampant to a fact-finding effort to determine what these people are doing, with whom they are communicating and how those communications are impacting the pending rate cases.
As the legislative body that ultimately confirms or rejects appointments to the Florida Public Service Commission, the Florida Senate must act quickly before decisions are made that may be adverse to the general public. Millions of people will be impacted by the two major rate cases pending (as well as a host of smaller cases that fill the PSC’s docket at any given time). It is our responsibility to ensure that the individuals, and the staff they employ, are making those decisions and are doing so within the confines of the law and to the standards demanded of all officials at the level of a state agency.
State Senator, District 11