FPL CEO lunches with Obama at White Houseby Dara Kam | October 8th, 2009
FPL Group CEO Lew Hay lunched with President Barack Obama and a handful of other Fortune 500 executives at the White House today.
FPL Group’s subsidiary, Florida Power & Light Co., has been in the headlines lately because of a contentious hearing over a proposed $1.3 billion rate increase and a $1.5 billion natural gas pipeline nixed by state regulators earlier this week.
Today, the Juno Beach-based power company agreed to pay $20 million in fines to federal regulators and spend another $5 million on itself to improve reliability of its electric grid after a 2008 blackout that thousands of customers in the dark for hours.
Lew along with Amazon.com Jeff Bezos, Eastman Kodak Co.’s Antonio Perez and Kraft Foods Inc.’s Irene Rosenfeld ate with Obama in his private dining room.
“The Administration has continued to seek the input of a diverse group of business leaders in order to hear directly from the private sector about key issues including the health of the financial sector, health insurance reform, climate change policy and job creation,” a White House press release on the meeting said.
Hay boasted to the president about FPL Group’s environmental achievements and Florida Power & Light’s plans to open the nation’s largest solar power plant later this month in Arcadia, FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski said.
“Mr. Hay had a great conversation with the President and fellow business leaders,” Bubriski said. “He also discussed his belief that forward-looking, clean-energy policies are vital to America’s economic recovery and FPL Group’s strong support for legislation to combat global warming and strengthen America’s energy security.”
Hopefully Hay got a warmer reception from Obama, a Democrat, than the cold shoulder Republican Gov. Charlie Crist has been giving the state’s largest utility.
Crist has publicly denounced FPL’s proposed rate hike and effectively fired two sitting Public Service Commissioners last week by bypassing them for reappointment. He’s also asked the regulatory panel to hold off on the FPL rate case and another $500 million rate increase sought by Progress Energy Florida until his new appointees come on board in January.