UPDATE: FPL wants to move ahead with rate hearingsby Dara Kam | September 11th, 2009
Florida Power & Light Co. officials had this to say about a top GOP senator’s request to halt utility rate hearings until investigations into what could be too cozy connections between regulators and utilities.
“We believe it is in our customers’ best interest for the PSC to proceed with its evaluation of our request – on its merits and the facts – so that it can make a timely decision that will allow us to move forward with investments in the electrical infrastructure that benefit our customers and the communities we serve,” FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski said in an e-mail.
Sen. Mike Fasano asked Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter to postpone rate hearings currently underway – including a $1.3 billion rate hike sought by FPL scheduled to resume Wednesday – indefinitely.
Fasano wants several current investigations wrapped up before the hearings continue. He also wants them suspended until the Senate confirms Gov. Charlie Crist’s two nominations for the panel. Crist received a list of six finalists – including two current commissioners – earlier this month and has until Oct. 2 to make his picks.
Yesterday, PSC spokeswoman Cynthia Muir was captured on videotape physically restraining a reporter who was trying to interview Carter after a meeting adjourned.
Controversies have hobbled the panel since the opening day of the FPL base rate increase on Aug. 24 when news of PSC lobbyist Ryder Rudd’s attendance at FPL VP Ed Tancer’s Kentucky Derby party in Palm Beach Gardens brought the hearing to a screeching halt.
Rudd resigned after an internal investigation could not prove that he broke the law or rules but did not exonerate him.
Commissioner Nancy Argenziano fired her aide, Larry Smith, and two other commissioners suspended their aides in the wake of news reports that they had exchanged secret Blackberry messages with FPL attorney Natalie Smith.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting an inquiry into the relationships between the regulators and their staff and utility company officials. Fasano has asked for Senate hearings on the issue as well.
But Senate President Jeff Atwater isn’t likely to schedule before committees meet late in October, if then, said Atwater spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof.