Crist to appoint 3 month stand-in to finish utility regulator’s termby Dara Kam | October 5th, 2009
Gov. Charlie Crist will replace Katrina McMurrian, who abruptly resigned from the Public Service Commission this morning, to fill out the less than three months remaining in her term.
Crist effectively fired McMurrian and PSC Chairman Matthew Carter, both appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2006, last week by refusing to reappoint them to the panel when their terms run out Dec. 31.
Crist’s general counsel Rob Wheeler asked the Public Service Nominating Council for a list of three recommendations to fill McMurrian’s place.
Wheeler asked the council’s lawyer Jay Vail to hurry up with the recommendations “so that there is no membership gap in representation on the Commission.”
There will be a membership gap beginning tomorrow, when the PSC – minus McMurrian, whose resignation was effective immediately – is scheduled to take a vote on a Florida Power & Light Co. proposed $1.5 billion, 300-mile natural gas pipeline.
On Thursday, Crist tapped two inexperienced newcomers to the panel last week: David Klement, a former newspaper editorial writer, and Benjamin “Steve” Stevens, an accountant who is part-owner and manager of a Pensacola nightclub that frequently features sexually suggestive contests.
The PSC is in the midst of hearing two rate cases, including a high-profile $1.3 billion Florida Power & Light Co. proposed rate hike.
Crist had threatened not to reappoint McMurrian and Carter if they voted in favor of the rate increase. A vote on the total amount of the rate increase is scheduled for Dec. 21 and a final vote for Jan. 11, 10 days after his new appointees join the regulatory panel.
Crist on Friday asked the PSC to hold off on the hearings until the new panel takes over in January. That’s when Commissioner Nancy Argenziano, also appointed by Crist, will take over as chairwoman and the PSC will have a decidedly less utility-friendly slant than it has in recent history.
The possibility of a less-than-three-month replacement is the latest twist in the near daily developments swirling around the PSC which for decades has operated in the shadows despite ruling on billions of dollars of rates and energy policy affecting nearly every Floridian.