Regulators poised to put off $1.2 billion FPL rate hike voteby Dara Kam | October 27th, 2009
The Public Service Commission is poised to give in to Gov. Charlie Crist’s demand to delay votes on the state’s two largest utilities’ cumulative $1.7 billion rate hike requests.
The regulators have not yet voted on the delay but at least three of the five panelists have said they support putting off the vote until after Jan. 1 when Crist’s new appointees will join the PSC.
Commissioner David Klement, appointed by Crist earlier this month and sworn in on Friday, urged the panel to postpone the vote until Crist’s other appointee, Benjamin “Steve” Stevens,” takes office after Jan. 1.
Votes on Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposed $1.2 billion base rate hike and Progress Energy Florida’s $500 million requested rate increase were originally slated to come this year.
But Crist asked the panel to hold off on the votes after he effectively fired two commissioners, including Chairman Matthew Carter, whose terms end on Dec. 31.
Klement began discussion of the postponements by noting that he would have to review 9,699 pages of documents, 829 pages of exhibits and view 23 days of videotaped testimony.
“I know there’s a lot riding on this decision today.
I’m aware that the governor wants those matters to be delayed…I’m aware that this matter is now entangled in politics, which is unfortante for all the parties concerned,” Klement said.
But he said that the fairest thing to do for the power companies and the public was to postpone the vote because moving forward could result in a tie.
The former newspaperman said he was up to the task because he grew up on a dairy farm.
“You hear a lot today about 24/7. Well, we had 2/7/52.
That means two times a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year,” Klement said.
As an editorial writer Klement had to wade through “huge amounts of data on any given subject” and come up with a column by the end of the day, he said.
“Two and a half months I have. I think I could do it. It certainly would be easier for me to vote against the delay. Look at all the work I would avoid,” Klement said.
The revised schedule now being discussed would put Stevens in the position of casting a vote on Progress Energy’s $500 million rate hike request on the same day he is sworn in on Jan. 4.
Intervenors in the case are now arguing that the dates should be pushed back even further to give Stevens more time to get up to speed.
But more of a delay could give Progress Energy the ability to raise rates subject to refund.
When he joined the panel four years ago, Carter said he was sworn in at 9:30 in the morning and cast his first vote on significant issues two hours.
“It would be incumbent upon any commissioner knowing that on day one, you’ve got to work,” Carter said.