Crist may lack authority to halt FPL rate caseby Dara Kam | October 2nd, 2009
Public Service Commission lawyers are checking into whether Gov. Charlie Crist has any standing in asking for a temporary halt to two utility rate cases until his two new regulatory commissioners take over on Jan. 1.
Crist this morning asked Chairman Matthew Carter, one of the two current commissioners whom Crist passed over for reappointment, to delay the Florida Power & Light Co. $1.3 billion rate hike hearing and the Progress Energy Florida $500 million request until David Klement and Benjamin “Steve” Stevens take over.
Carter ordered his legal staff to figure out how to handle the governor’s request because he is not one of the intervenors in the case and may have no legal standing to ask for a delay.
Carter then put Crist’s request into the case files, along with a similar one from Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican who also asked that a vote on the rate cases be postponed until the new panel is seated next year.
On Jan. 1, the panel will be made up of four appointees hand-picked by Crist and another commissioner originally put on the PSC by Gov. Jeb Bush and reappointed by Crist.
Also in January, Commissioner Nancy Argenziano will take over as the new chairwoman of the panel.
She said she’s not sure what to do.
“I respect the governor asking because of the reasons but I don’t know how to do it legally or if I were even inclined to do it,” Argenziano said. “It would be helpful for those who are asking us to tell us how.”
Another delay in the FPL case, which has run into overtime, which put it even farther behind schedule than it already is. FPL officials have said they will implement the rate hike on Jan. 4 as allowed by state law and not wait until the currently scheduled Jan. 11 vote on the issue. They have also said they will refund any difference in the final rates as also required by state law.
This is what officials at the Juno Beach-based utility had to say about Crist’s request:
“All we have asked is that the Commission consider our rate proposal based on the facts and the merits of the information presented to them in a timely manner. The reality is that a negative outcome in the rate proceeding puts at risk thousands of new construction jobs at a time when they are needed most, hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues for Florida communities and billions of dollars in capital investment. All of which can be accomplished while lowering customer bills.”