FPL last-minute gotcha on $1.2 billion rate hike opponentsby Dara Kam | October 23rd, 2009
The Public Service Commission and opponents of Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposed $1.2 billion rate hike grilled the utility’s officials about stacking the deck at customer service hearings throughout the day and into the evening yesterday.
FPL Customer Service VP Marlene Santos conceded that the Juno Beach-based utility methodically rounded up dozens of commercial customers – many of whom were recipients of FPL’s charitable gifts – to attend the hearings to tell regulators how great FPL is and that the company deserves the boost.
But just before the hearing ended around 7:30 p.m., FPL lawyers produced documents showing that their opponents employed the same tactics.
Acting Chairwoman Lisa Edgar allowed the last-minute filings over the objections of rate hike opponents.
“We urge you to attend the hearing in your area and speak out against FPL’s requests,” read a June e-mail from the Florida Retail Federation to its members. AARP’s Florida director urged the same of that group’s members in an August article on the group’s Web site.
Today’s hearing kicked off on time at 9:30 but it’s unclear if it will finish up on time late this evening as scheduled.
The PSC is scheduled to vote next week on whether to postpone a decision on the rate case. Newly appointed Commissioner David Klement, a former newspaper editorial writer, will join the panel next week in time for the crucial vote.
Klement goes on the bench about two months earlier than the January kick-off of his four-year term because Gov. Charlie Crist tapped him to fill in for former Commissioner Katrina McMurrian. McMurrian quit with about three months left in her term after Crist passed her over for reappointment.
Crist also appointed Panhandle accountant and bar owner/manager Benjamin “Steve” Stevens to the PSC beginning next year.
Crist asked the PSC to hold off on the FPL case and a similar $500 million rate hike sought by Progress Energy Florida until both of his appointments join the panel. PSC staff recommend that the votes on both cases come this year.
After January, Crist will have hand-picked four of the five commissioners: Stevens, Klement and Nancy Argenziano and Nathan Skop, both appointed in 2007.
The governor last year reappointed Edgar, put on the panel by Gov. Jeb Bush.