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$1.3 billion FPL rate hike hearing goes on and on and on…

by Dara Kam | October 19th, 2009

Utility regulators have added an extra day to hear testimony in the $1.3 billion Florida Power & Light Co. rate hike case.

The base rate case is already into overtime and is running long past the original two weeks scheduled for early August, including several back-to-back 12-plus hour days of testimony.

The Public Service Commission was slated to finish the hearings on Wednesday and Thursday but this morning added Friday to the schedule.

Only four commissioners remain on the regulatory panel – former Commissioner Katrina McMurrian walked off the $133,000 a year job recently after Gov. Charlie Crist effectively fired her and Chairman Matthew Carter and appointed two new members who will take over on Jan. 1.

The Juno Beach-based utility’s rate case and Progress Energy Florida’s proposed $500 million base rate increase is shining an unwelcome spotlight on the agency that heretofore operated with little public interest.

Controversy over BlackBerry PIN messages exchanged by commissioners and their staff with an FPL lobbyist and attorney and other allegations of potential conflict of interst resulted in Commissioner Nancy Argenziano “firing” aide Larry Williams, who was reassigned to a job as an attorney in the agency’s general counsel office, two other aides being suspended and McMurrian quitting her post with about three months left in her term. General Counsel Booter Emhof also recently resigned his job and went back to work for the Florida House where he’d served for more than two decades before joining the PSC.

Critics have filed several ethics complaints against the commissioners, including Argenziano who is expected to chair the panel next year.

Gov. Charlie Crist and other elected officials have weighed in publicly on the cases, demanding that the hearings be put on hold until the new panel convenes next year.

Chairman Carter scheduled a decision on whether to delay the FPL case for next week – after the PSC takes up the case for three days this week.

Carter, who put his aide on paid leave pending investigations into the PINs, has had enough of what he called the sideline “shenanigans.”

“The sideshow just distracts from us doing our jobs. People should just leave us alone and let us go and do our jobs,” Carter said Friday.

The cases have also pitted historically aligned business groups on opposing sides.

Associated Industries of Florida, a business-backed political group based in Tallahassee, is an intervenor in the case in support of FPL’s requested rate hike.

A frustrated AIF President Barney Bishop last week posted thousands of BlackBerry messages on his website and called for an internal investigation of Argenziano, accusing her of impartiality and conduct unbecoming a commissioner.

On the other side, the Florida Retail Federation is one of the many groups fighting the increase.

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6 Responses to “$1.3 billion FPL rate hike hearing goes on and on and on…”

  1. native Says:

    Um, does anybody in Tallahassee realize that the state is already in the throes of a deep recession,unemployment is double digit, foreclosures abound, people can’t pay for the basics and the state is losing population (thank God!)? FPL is gorging on profits and the always-suspect PSC is going to give them more? That sounds fair.

    At what point do these clueless greedheads realize they are killing the goose that laid the golden egg? Better eat that omelet quick, scumbags, you’re going to be on short rations before too long as you ultimately suffer the consequences of your own greed, venality and stupidity. Unfortunately, everyone else already is.

  2. Suspended utility reg panel aides back on the job | Post on Politics Says:

    [...] aides will be on the job when the PSC continues a hearing on Florida Power & Light Co.’s $1.3 billion rate hike request on [...]

  3. Sick of it Says:

    They want more money yet they can’t even keep the power on most of the time. We lost power here for about an hour today, and not a cloud in the sky.

  4. Disgusted Says:

    Keep on going, why not a few billion more! Residents are leaving the state in record numbers, out of staters are not replacing them. Arizonia is sending thank you letters for the seasonal influx while the corporate execs fly in their helicopter from PBG to PBI (no traffic jams for them) to pick up the corporate plane. Soon it will only be the rich and poor here. The middle class is done.

  5. FPL hearings should go on despite Crist’s objections, PSC staff says | Post on Politics Says:

    [...] rate case is slated to resume Wednesday and finish up on Friday after dragging on more than two months longer than originally [...]

  6. Thomas Saporito Says:

    Enough is enough – the citizens of Florida deserve far better than the status quo. I am now a candidate for the Office of Governor – please visit http://www.GOVERNORSAPORITO.com and download a voter petition to have my name placed on the ballot so that I can bring needed change.

    Thomas Saporito

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