FPL hearings should go on despite Crist’s objections, PSC staff saysby Dara Kam | October 19th, 2009
Utility regulators should not delay a vote this year on Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposed $1.3 billion rate hike, Public Service Commission staff recommended today.
Gov. Charlie Crist asked the panel to hold off on FPL’s rate case and on Progress Energy Florida’s proposed $500 million rate increase until next year when his new hand-picked commissioners join the panel on Jan. 1.
FPL’s rate case is slated to resume Wednesday and finish up on Friday after dragging on more than two months longer than originally scheduled.
The PSC should ignore Crist’s request, staff wrote in a recommendation today. The panel is scheduled to vote on the recommendation next Tuesday.
The PSC is scheduled to vote on the amount of FPL’s base rate hike on Dec. 21 and on Progress Energy’s on Nov. 19.
FPL argued that the case should move forward because it would take the new commissioners – former newspaper editorial writer David Klement and Panhandle accountant and bar owner and manager Benjamin “Steve” Stevens – too long to get up to speed on the voluminous filings in the cases.
But the Florida Retail Federation objected that the panel should take as long as it needs to offer a fair and impartial decision, which they are required by law to do anyway. The retailers estimated it would take the new commissioners less than three months to familiarize themselves with the rate cases.
PSC staffers agreed with the utilities that the hearings should go on as planned. They noted that the FPL case includes more than 5,000 pages of testimony and the PEF case more than 4,000 and that PSC would have to vote this year to comply with state law.
“Postponing decisions in each of the rate cases until after newly appointed Commissioners take office will likely delay a final decision past the deadline mandated by the legislature. The Commission should take all steps necessary to timely render its final orders in both cases as mandated by the legislature,” they wrote.