PSC Chairman Carter denies he’s “too cozy” with FPLby Dara Kam | September 3rd, 2009
In the latest installment of intrigue at the Public Service Commission, chairman Matthew Carter issued an indignant press release today saying he takes “great offense” at reports that utility regulators are too cozy with Florida Power & Light Co. executives.
The PSC is in the midst of a FPL rate hearing in which the company is seeking a $1.3 billion rate hike implemented over two years.
The opening of the hearing was delayed after it was revealed that a PSC lobbyist and government liaison attended a party at the Palm Beach Gardens home of FPL VP Ed Tancer. Ryder Rudd, director of the commission’s Office of Strategic Analysis and Governmental Affairs, oversees staff working on two pending FPL cases – the current rate hike and a proposed $1.5 billion natural gas pipeline from the Panhandle to Palm Beach County.
An internal investigation released yesterday found that Rudd may not have broken the law by attending the party but may have violated rules of conduct prohibiting PSC staff from accepting gifts from those whose cases are under review.
Commissioner Nathan Skop, who exposed Rudd’s attendance at the party, demanded that Rudd be fired immediately. Rudd has been taken off any dockets involving FPL.
Carter weighed in today with the press release denying that commissioners and their staff are “too cozy with regulated industries, FPL in particular.”
He pointed out that he’s voted against FPL in almost every high-profile case since Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him to the PSC in 2006.
“Despite the disruptive controversies that have enveloped the agency recently, this Commission will forge ahead, conducting its business fairly, with due process, and in the Public Interest, and will not be deterred or influenced by political intimidation,” Carter wrote.
The commission has been plagued by scandal since the hearing began last Monday. First, the Rudd revelations brought the hearing to a temporary halt and spurred the inspector general investigation.
Now the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is looking into a complaint about commission staff and their relationship with FPL lobbyists and executives. FDLE is not conducting a formal investigation yet, a spokeswoman said.
At least two commissioners have complained to State Attorney Willie Meggs about nefarious goings-on at the PSC. It’s unknown if he directed the complaints to FDLE or who asked for the review.