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Lisa Edgar’

Senate confirms utility regulator after drawn-out debate

Friday, May 3rd, 2013 by Dara Kam

After more than 30 minutes of at times brutal debate, the Florida Senate reconfirmed Public Service Commissioner Lisa Edgar despite concerns that the regulator sides with utilities more often than consumers.

The Senate voted 26-13 to give Edgar, the longest-serving commissioner on the panel another four years on the panel that oversees utilities and approves utility rates.

Edgar was first appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2005 and reappointed by Govs. Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.

But Edgar’s votes in favor of utility rate hikes, a personal bankruptcy and her involvement in a PSC dust-up involving Blackberry messages prompted a drawn-out debate on the final day of the legislative session about whether she should be replaced.

“My personal belief on this nominee is that she does not do an adequate job of representing the ratepayers and the consumers of the state of Florida,” said Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg. “My personal belief, based on my observations…is that she is fairly consistently on the side of the regulated entities as opposed to the consumers, especially with regard to electric rates.”

Latvala said he had planned not to submit her name for a vote and instead force Scott to either reappoint her or select someone new.

“I’m grateful to Governor Scott and the Legislature and am excited about working with them for the next four years!” Edgar said in a statement shortly after the vote.

Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, questioned Edgar’s rate-making decisions and their impact on “working class people” and the state’s economy.

“Give her a gold watch and say thank you for your eight years of service…Hit the reset button,” Legg said.

But incoming Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, defended Edgar, pointing out that she had been vetted and appointed by three governors and passed the scrutiny of Latvala’s committee.

“She’s human and fallible and unfortunately she and her husband had to undergo a bankruptcy,” Joyner said. “Nobody’s perfect. Her record is exemplary.”

Edgar weathered a PSC scandal involving BlackBerry messages exposed during a proposed Florida Power & Light rate hike in 2009. Edgar was cleared of wrongdoing by the Florida Commission on Ethics after an investigation into whether she broke state law by communicating through her aide with a Florida Power & Light Co. executive during a hearing. The ethics panel found no probable cause that Edgar violated state ethics laws.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said that the eight-year term limit for lawmakers should apply to Edgar.

“It’s about your constituents who have to pay these rates. I would love to see us put someone a little more consumer friendly on this commission,” he said.

Scott reappoints Lisa Edgar to Public Service Commission

Friday, September 21st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott has selected Public Service Commissioner Lisa Edgar, the longest-serving member on the panel, from a short list of four nominees to serve another four-year term, Scott announced in a press release tonight. The appointment is subject to Florida Senate confirmation.

“I am grateful for the governor’s confidence and I am excited about working with my collegues on behalf of Florida’s ratepayers and Florida’s future,” Edgar said.

Edgar, 49, has served on the commission since 2005. Gov. Jeb Bush first appointed her to the $130,000-a-year job. She was reappointed by Gov. Charlie Crist.

“During her eight years on the Public Service Commission, Lisa has demonstrated the ability to review complex issues and show fairness in considering those issues,” Scott said in a statement. “I am confident her experience will allow her to continue to be an effective commissioner.”

Edgar weathered a PSC dust-up involving BlackBerry messages exposed during a proposed Florida Power & Light rate hike in 2009. Edgar was cleared of wrongdoing by the Florida Commission on Ethics after in investigation into whether she broke state law by communicating through her aide with a Florida Power & Light Co. executive during a hearing. The ethics panel found no probable cause that Edgar violated state ethics laws.

PSC critic Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican running for the state House, urged Scott to reject Edgar, saying she represented the “old guard” with ties too close to the utility industry.

FPL last-minute gotcha on $1.2 billion rate hike opponents

Friday, October 23rd, 2009 by Dara Kam

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.

(more…)

Suspended utility reg panel aides back on the job

Monday, October 19th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Two utility regulators’ aides are back on the job after being suspended with pay during investigations into BlackBerry messages exchanged with utility representatives.

Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter reinstated aide William Garner on Oct. 5 and Commissioner Lisa Edgar put aide Roberta Bass back to work on Oct. 12.

The aides will be on the job when the PSC continues a hearing on Florida Power & Light Co.’s $1.3 billion rate hike request on Wednesday.

(more…)

Bob Butterworth or Rod Smith headed to PSC?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 by Dara Kam

There’s a job opening at the Public Service Commission since general counsel Booter Imhof quit on Friday while the regulatory panel is mired in controversy.

Commissioner Lisa Edgar proposed two well-known Democratic politicians to step in for Imhof: former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who also served as Department of Children and Families chief under Gov. Charlie Crist, and former state Sen. Rod Smith, who ran a losing battle in the Democratic primary for governor in 2006.

“It’s time to untangle the spaghetti bowl in which we find ourselves,” said Edgar.

“The question is why would they want to come into the spaghetti bowl?” questioned Commissioner Nathan Skop.

Commissioner Nancy Argenziano suggested former statewide prosecutor Melanie Hines.

Whoever the commission picks, Chairman Matthew Carter repeatedly laid down the law in one regard.
“I want them to agree not to come before us for at least five years in any capacity representing any party. I can’t go for that,” said Carter.

Carter said he’d prefer to have the prospective general counsel promise to never come before the panel, but backed away from that.

“If we’re dealing with a perception problem, then certainly we need to make sure we don’t add to it. The best thing to do when you’re in a hole is to stop digging,” he said.

PSC Chairman bans Blackberry PINs

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter today banned the use of all communication or messaging by the utility regulators and their staff other than e-mail until an internal investigation is complete.

One PSC aide was fired and two others, including Carter’s, were placed on administrative leave after it was revealed that the aides gave their Blackberry personal identification numbers (PINs) to a Florida Power & Light Co. lawyer.

PINs are messages that can be exchanged between Blackberry users without creating a public record.

The communication controversy is taking place against the backdrop of two hearings that involve FPL: a proposed $1.3 billion rate hike and a proposed $63 million increase to cover the costs of nuclear power plant enhancements not yet built.

“We are all aware of the controversy which has arisen regarding use of communications technologies within the Commission.  While we are currently conducting a review of these technologies and how they relate to maintaining public records, I am directing that pending the outcome of this review the Commission should disable all communications or messaging capabilities that are not captured through our existing e-mail system,” Carter wrote to the PSC commissioners in an e-mail sent today. 
 
Commissioner Lisa Edgar, who put her aide Roberta Bass on leave after it was reported that Bass gave her own and Edgar’s PINs to an FPL exec, requested the IT review. (more…)

PSC staffer who went to PBC Kentucky Derby party resigns

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Public Service Commission staffer Ryder Rudd resigned this morning after an internal investigation found that he may have broken the regulatory agency’s ethics rules.

Rudd, who earned $92,000 a year, attended a Kentucky Derby party at the Palm Beach Gardens home of Florida Power & Light Co. vice president Ed Tancer although Rudd was involved in at least two of the utility’s rate filings.

Knowledge of Rudd’s attendance at Tancer’s gala was the first in a string of events, the latest including two PSC staff resignations and two commissioners’ aides being place on administrative leave.

Also today, Sen. Mike Fasano asked for a Senate Ethics and Elections Committee hearing into whether the regulators and their staff are too cozy with the utilities they oversee.

“After reading and hearing of what’s happening over at the Public Service Commission, it sounds to me like they’re ready to implode over there,” Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said.

In the meantime, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is also conducting an informal investigation into the same possible problem.

Two sitting PSC commissioners – Chairman Matthew Carter and Commissioner Katrina McMurrian – were included in the list of six nominees given to Gov. Charlie Crist last week. Fasano asked Crist to hold off on the appointments until the panel votes on a proposed $1.3 billion FPL rate hike.

Carter’s aide Bill Garner and Commissioner Lisa Edgar’s aide Roberta Bass were put on leave today after the Times/Herald reported that the aides had given secret Blackberry PIN numbers to an FPL attorney. Commissioner Nancy Argenziano fired her aide, Larry Harris, who is seeking reemployment elsewhere within the agency.

PSC “about to implode” says Fasano

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 by Dara Kam

fasanoThe panel that regulates utilities seems like “it’s about to implode,” Sen. Mike Fasano said today.

Fasano, who chairs the Senate Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee, asked Senate President Jeff Atwater to order an ethics investigation into whether the Public Service Commission and its staff are too cozy with the industry it regulates.

“You have a regulatory body that can’t even regulate themselves let alone regulate a multi-billion dollar utility company that’s asking for a 30 percent rate increase,” Fasano, R-New Port Richey said.

Attorney General Bill McCollum earlier today said his office is “looking into” problems at the regulatory agency and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently conducting an informal investigation.

The PSC is considering rate hikes for both Florida Power & Light Co. and Progress Energy and a proposed FPL natural gas pipeline that would altogether raise customers’ rates by more than $3 billion.

PSC staffer Ryder Rudd was pulled off all FPL cases after it was learned that he attended a Kentucky Derby party at the Palm Beach Gardens home of FPL VP Ed Tancer. An internal investigation found that he may have broken the agency’s ethics rules but could not prove it.

This weekend, The Miami Herald reported that other PSC aides had given secret Blackberry PIN numbers to an FPL attorney, prompting Commissioner Nancy Argenziano to fire her aide and Commissioner Lisa Edgar to put hers on leave.

‘From the Commission’s chief lobbyist attending a party with executives from Florida Power & Light, to the sharing of Blackberry PINs between commissioners, staff and utility executives, the appearance of impropriety has become impropriety itself.

‘If you throw into the mix the fact that two of the five sitting commissioners are up for possible reappointment in the midst of the rate case it becomes evident that disaster is in the making. I have publically asked the governor to not reappoint the two sitting commissioners until the rate cases have been disposed of,” Fasano wrote to Atwater asking for the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee investigation. The committee has to confirm Gov. Charlie Crist’s nominations for the commission.

PSC Chairman Matthew Carter last week denied the regulators were too close to the utilities.

Read Fasano’s entire letter to Atwater after the jump.

(more…)

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