FPL $1.5 billion pipeline hearing advancesby Dara Kam | October 6th, 2009
After a lengthy discussion this morning, the Public Service Commission decided to move forward with a vote on Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposed $1.5 billion natural gas pipeline.
The state’s largest natural gas distributor, Florida Gas Transmission Co. LLC, asked that the case be terminated because of allegations of coziness between FPL and PSC staff. FGT wants to be the one to build the state’s third natural gas pipeline.
The PSC denied FGT’s motion but only after a review of an internal investigation into whether the staff was pressured into recommending that FGT’s request be turned down.
Adding to the confusion, the staff analysis recommended both approval and denial of the proposed FPL pipeline.
Commissioner Nathan Skop said he asked for an inspector general investigation into the matter because some PSC aides had complained to him that they were being “railroaded” into coming down on a particular side of the issue.
“Some staff said the discussions among staff in this case were unnecessarily hostile. One said, while conceding that arguments among staff are common, in this case SGA staff seemed to be trying to ‘censor’ views that differed from theirs and that the forceful tone of their argument was unprecedented,” Inspector General Stephen Stolting wrote in his Sept. 16 report.
The PSC’s director of the Office of Strategic Analysis and Government Affairs (SGA) Ryder Rudd abruptly resigned during the midst of the pipeline discussions on Sept. 7 after an internal investigation into his attendance at FPL VP Ed Tancer’s Kentucky Derby party.
“It is clear that the development of the staff recommendation in this docket was contentious and difficult,” Stolting concluded. “However, we found no basis to question the motivation of SGA staff or to support allegations of bias. Based on this conclusion, no recommendation is offered.”
Skop said Stolting’s report “watered down” some of the staff’s concerns but that it helped to balance the recommendations and that, without it, the alternative recommendation to deny the pipeline would not have been included.
“I don’t care how you want to cut it…that wasn’t going to happen. The likelihood was not promising,” Skop said.