Across Florida
What's happening on other political blogs?

Public Service Commission’

FPL will halt all projects that could have created 20,000 jobs

Thursday, January 14th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Florida Power & Light Co. President Armando Olivera said that utility regulators’ decision to grant the power company just $75 million of its requested $1 billion rate hike this year will cost the state 20,000 new jobs.

He accused the Public Service Commission of politicizing the proposed rate hike, eliciting this response from Commissioner Nathan Skop at the close of yesterday’s 11-hour proceedings.

“The commission’s worked hard to decide this case on the merits in a fair and impartial manner. We were very deliberate in the decisions that we made here today. The reality is that FPL is going to have to make do in difficult economic times,” Skop said. “I know that FPL today is a strong company and no doubt will be a strong company tomorrow. They have an ambitious capital program and will invest in Florida’s future and any suggestion that that should not be achievable would be a complete falsehood.”

Read the full story here.

FPL gets just $75 million rate hike out of $1 billion request

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Public Service Commission granted Florida Power & Light a $75,470,948 annual rate hike – just a fraction of the $1 billion rate hike it sought for this year.

Based on a typical customer’s bill with 1,000 kilowatt hours of use, customers will pay 75 cents a month more than what they are now paying. That’s far less than the $8.85 the Juno Beach-based utility had sought.

“The reality is that FPL is going to have to make due in these tough difficult times,” Commissioner Nathan Skop said.

FPL prez: ‘Politics trumped economics’

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Florida Power & Light Co. President Armando Olivera accused utility reagulators risking customers’ electrical service by slashing Florida Power & Light’s requested $1.2 billion rate increase by at least 90 percent.

“Today, politics trumped economics,” Olivera told reporters as he left the meeting still in progress at about 6:15 to return to South Florida on the corporate jet.

Olivera said the Juno Beach-based utility will immediately cease modernization efforts at its Riviera Beach and Cape Canaveral plants and halt work on a new nuclear plant that would have put 20,000 workers on the job this year.

The commission decided to limit FPL’s profits to 10 percent – far less than the 12.5 percent the company sought. Commissioner Nathan Skop said that FPL’s proposal was based more on a desire to increase cash flow than on substance.

That return on equity could be bad for the state’s largest utility’s 4 million customers, Olivera said.

“It’s conceivable our reliability will be impacted,” he said.

Olivera said the panel’s votes on more than 100 items today – still underway – coupled with a denial of Progress Energy Florida’s $500 million rate hike request Monday “sends a chilling effect on anybody who wants to invest in this state.”

Olivera said it’s too soon to say whether any of the utility’s 10,499 workers will be laid off but that “we’re going to be looking at every aspect of our operation.” He said that information would be revealed to employees before anyone else.

“The most immediate thing is not to spend money we don’t have,” Olivera said.

Utility regulators reject FPL profit-making request

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Public Service Commission dealt another blow to Florida Power & Light, this time unanimously rejecting a 12.5 percent return on equity sought in its $1.2 billion-a-year rate hike request.

The panel again went lower than their staff recommended, setting the return on equity – the amount of profit for shareholders – at 10 percent. PSC staff had recommended 10.75 percent.

FPL says it needs the higher return to allow it to borrow more cheaply to make investments in future projects.

But Commissioner Nathan Skop said this morning that the company already has other methods to recoup costs for construction and investment in power generation.

The commission has already slashed the staff’s recommended $357 million-a-year rate hike by more than half, cutting to nearly a tenth of what FPL had originally sought.

Commissioner Nathan Skop said the company could earn more than the 10 percent allowed if it “tightened its belt” elsewhere. The company also has very little risk because it is a geographic monopoly. And FPL also has a favorable debt-to-equity ratio, Skop said.

Finally, the bulk of what FPL charges its customers – more than 60 percent – come from other sources than the base rate, Skop said.

“Looking at that and looking at the current economic situation…utilities are just going to have to make due in these difficult economic times,” Skop said.

FPL says it needs the higher profit rate in part because the economy is continuing to deteriorate and it is getting more difficult to borrow money.

“In the midst of our rate proceeding, our ROE was 10.7% (May 2009) and since that time our ability to earn a fair rate of return on equity has continued to deteriorate. Our position is that the Commission should authorize 12.5% as the return on common equity. Granting FPL’s requested return on equity will appropriately take into account overall utility industry risks, as well as FPL’s need to invest $16 billion (investments) to provide service over the next five years. Granting FPL’s common ROE is critical to maintaining FPL’s financial strength and flexibility and will help FPL attract the large amounts of capital that are needed to service its customers,” FPL spokesman Mayco Villafana said in an e-mail this morning.

Another $150 million lopped off FPL’s $1.2 billion rate hike request

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Utility regulators just chopped off another $150 million from Florida Power & Light’s $1.2 billion rate hike request. So far, they’ve cut the staff’s recommendation on the utility’s rate request – $357 million – by more than half, leaving less than $160 million on the table.

The Public Service Commission split on the latest vote – how much customers should pay to let FPL save money in the event of a storm. They’ve already got $215 million in reserve in case of a catastrophic storm. And they’re collecting almost $2.60 a month from customers to pay for past storm damages.

FPL had asked for $150 million a year for five years for a total of about $650 million. PSC staff said they should get $50 million a year.

Commissioner David Klement, newly appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist, made a motion to reduce that to $25 million a year. That motion failed. Chairman Nancy Argenziano and Commissioners Nathan Skop and Benjamin “Steve” Stevens (also new to the panel) voted to grant the utility nothing.

“I’ve heard the voices of the consumers saying right now’s not the time to charge us for an unknown storm in the future. We can’t handle it right now. Current customers are still paying for the past storms. At a time when people can hardly pay their mortgages, I don’t think they can handle anymore. At this moment, my main concern…is that we alleviate what we can,” Argenziano said. “To say that we’re going to charge today for storms we don’t know are going to come to me is one I can take off the table right now and not have on the ratepayer.”

Utility regulator blasts FPL $1.2 billion rate hike request

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Public Service Commissioner Nathan Skop took a swipe at Florida Power & Light for requesting a $1.2 billion-a-year rate hike before the utility regulators broke for lunch.

“This rate case seems to be more about improving cash flow from operations and discretionary expenditures than substance,” Skop said.

“That’s clearly indicated by the substantial adjustments” PSC staff made to FPL’s request, Skop said. PSC staff suggested the Juno Beach-based utility be granted just $357 million of the $1 billion it asked for this year.

On Monday, the PSC denied any of Progress Energy Florida’s requested $500 million rate hike, going even lower than the staff’s recommendation of about $50 million.

And things aren’t going so well for FPL so far this morning. The panel turned down its request for a second year rate hike of about $300 million and discontinued its ability to make adjustments in the base rate without the PSC’s approval, taking about another $180 million off the table.

The most contentious part of FPL’s request is up for discussion after the panel, headed by consumer-friendly Chairman Nancy Argenziano, returns in about an hour.

That’s its return on equity – how much profit the state’s largest utility should be allowed to earn – and how much of that its customers should pay for.

FPL wants a 12.5 percent ROE, almost a 2 percent jump from what it’s currently earning.

FPL contends it needs the higher profits to be able to borrow more cheaply in the future and to invest in future projects.

“In the midst of our rate proceeding, our ROE was 10.7% (May 2009) and since that time our ability to earn a fair rate of return on equity has continued to deteriorate. Our position is that the Commission should authorize 12.5% as the return on common equity. Granting FPL’s requested return on equity will appropriately take into account overall utility industry risks, as well as FPL’s need to invest $16 billion (investments) to provide service over the next five years. Granting FPL’s common ROE is critical to maintaining FPL’s financial strength and flexibility and will help FPL attract the large amounts of capital that are needed to service its customers,” FPL spokesman Mayco Villafana said in an e-mail this morning.

Utility regulators start turning down FPL

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Utility regulators began today’s proceedings on Florida Power & Light’s proposed $1.2 billion rate hike by saying “no” to two important items included in the 100-plus decisions related to the request.

The Public Service Commission refused to include a second year, 2011, in the Juno Beach-based utility’s proposal, knocking about $300 million off the rate hike request.

FPL was seeking a two-year increment in its base rate, about $1 million this year and $300 million next year.

Regulators said there is too much volatility in fuel prices and the banking industry to predict what will happen that far in the future.

The panel also turned down FPL’s request to continue making automatic adjustments in customers’ base rates when new plants or equipment other than solar or nuclear come on line. They said that gives the company too much leeway without oversight. A separate provision allows utilities to recoup construction costs for solar or nuclear plants outside of the base rate.

Still up for discussion: how much profit the state’s largest utility should be allowed to earn.

FPL President Armando Olivera is at the meeting.

FPL rate hike case kicks off

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Florida Public Service Commission will spend the day deciding on how much – if any – Florida Power & Light Co. deserves of the $1.2 billion rate hike it seeks.

Today’s proceeding, expected to last until this evening, began with a discussion from Commissioner Nathan Skop about the Juno Beach-based utility’s requested 12.5 percent return on equity – profitability to shareholders – and how much money that would require for customers to pay.

Watching the debate today are a group of AARP seniors who traveled to Tallahassee from Daytona Beach. AARP opposes the rate hike.

New utility reg chairwoman says big changes not likely

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Public Service Commission Chairwoman Nancy Argenziano began her first day as head of the utility regulatory panel by suggesting that her colleagues conduct themselves like judges.

Argenziano, a former state legislator, took over as chairwoman this morning and Panhandle accountant Benjamin “Steve” Stevens was sworn in as the newest commissioner as the panel prepares to vote on nearly $2 billion in power rate hikes next week.

Argenziano kicked off this morning’s meeting by handing out the code of judicial conduct to the other four members of the PSC in an effort to place more distance between the commissioners and their staff and the utilities they oversee.

She wants all communications placed in writing and entered into the public record in cases pending before the PSC.

The quasi-judicial panel is considering imposing changes to its own ethical standards while awaiting possible legislative changes to how the commission operates regarding communications between the utilities and the PSC.

But Argenziano, a Republican from Dunedin appointed to the PSC by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007, wants broader changes in the way potential commissioners are selected by a committee comprised largely of legislators. Those suggestions are then given to the governor, who makes the final decision.

Argenziano objects to the legislature’s influence on the selections because, she says, House and Senate leaders are dependent on campaign contributions from the utilities.

She wants the panel to become part of the court system and have commissioners appointed by either the Cabinet or the attorney general or a smaller group that would be more accountable to consumers, she said.

But lawmakers are unlikely to cede their power over the PSC, Argenziano admitted.

(more…)

Revamped utility reg panel back at work today

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 by Dara Kam

A consumer-friendly former legislator with a reputation for bucking the system takes over as head of the panel that sets billions of dollars in utility rates, including a pending $1.2 billion Florida Power & Light Co. rate hike request, today.

Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano will become chairwoman of the agency that will now bear the brand of Gov. Charlie Crist who selected four of the five members of the panel and reappointed one previously picked by his predecessor Jeb Bush.

Also new to the regulatory panel: Benjamin “Steve” Stevens, a Panhandle accountant and co-owner of a bar catering to the college crowd.
Stevens, Crist’s latest appointment, joins the PSC just a week before the regulators are set to make two important votes: the FPL rate increase and a $500 million Progress Energy Florida rate hike request.

Commissioner David Klement, a retired newspaperman who spent more than three decades as an editorial writer, joined the panel late in October.

Argenziano, a former legislator with a reputation as a feisty maverick unafraid of defying the status quo, has vowed to clean up the embattled agency blackened by allegations of improper communications and relationships between agency staff and representatives of the utilities they oversee.

(more…)

Argenziano new head of utility reg panel

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 by Dara Kam

Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano

Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano

The Florida Public Service Commission unanimously elected Nancy Argenziano as chairwoman today for a two-year term beginning Jan. 2, 2010.

Argenziano will be the head of the PSC when the panel votes on Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposed $1.2 billion rate hike shortly after she takes over.

The feisty Argenziano served in the legislature for more than a decade before Gov. Charlie Crist appointed her to the PSC in 2007.

“I appreciate the challenge and realize that the Chairmanship is purely an administrative charge. All PSC Commissioners are equal and independent appointees. Now, let’s get to work on the important decisions that lie ahead,” Argenziano said.

(more…)

Utility regulators cleared of wrongdoing…again

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 by Dara Kam

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement found no evidence of wrongdoing in the exchange of BlackBerry messages between utility regulators or their staff and utility officials.

FDLE issued the three-page report today, long after Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs also found no laws had been broken.

The report was released as the Public Service Commission held a workshop to discuss a 17-year-old statewide grand jury report recommending changes to how information between the PSC and the utilities is exchanged to clear up the perception that there isn’t enough distance between the regulators and the utilities they regulate.

The PSC has operated under a cloud of suspicion since late this summer at the beginning of hearings on Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposed $1.2 billion rate hike.

On the opening day of the hearing, it was revealed that the agency’s lobbyist Ryder Rudd had attended a Kentucky Derby party at the Palm Beach Gardens home of FPL VP Ed Tancer. Rudd later quit.

Two commissioners suspended their aides for swapping BlackBerry messages with an FPL lawyer and another fired hers for giving his secret BlackBerry identification number (PIN) to an FPL lawyer.

Utility regulators skip workshop on cleaning up their agency

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Three of the five Public Service Commissioners were absent today at a public discussion of how to clean up their beleaguered regulatory panel.

And one of the two who did bother to attend won’t be on the panel much longer – Chairman Matthew Carter’s term is up on Dec. 31 and Gov. Charlie Crist didn’t reappoint him.

Carter scheduled the staff workshop for today – two days before Thanksgiving because the PSC has a busy schedule and it’s a work week like any other, he said.

(more…)

Former PSC lawyer goes back to the legislature

Monday, November 23rd, 2009 by Dara Kam

The Public Service Commission’s former general counsel Booter Imhof, who resigned after less than a year on the job during the fray over a proposed $1.2 billion Florida Power & Light Co. rate hike, is now heading a Senate committee dealing with other regulated businesses.

Imhof will take over as staff director for the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Jan. 1, according to an e-mail distributed in the Senate this morning.

Imhof’s a familiar face in both chambers – he served in the same role in both the House and Senate committees.

Utility regulators are expected to make a decision on Imhof’s replacement soon.

At the top of the list: Curt Kiser, a long-time Republican who once served in the state Senate and who sat on the Public Service Commission Nominating Council for 17 years; Mike Twomey, a former PSC lawyer who later lobbied for AARP; and Bonnie Davis, a Tallahassee lawyer who represents utilities.

More studying, fewer Bladder Busts for Crist PSC appointee?

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009 by Dara Kam

bladderCould Gov. Charlie Crist’s Public Service Commission appointee be trying to distance himself from the perception he’s actively involved in managing a bar where they offer “Free Beer Til Someone Pees” at “Bladder Bust” night every Tuesday? Where a flier reads, “Don’t Die Sober on Friday 13th”?

friday13thspecialcopyCaught at his home in Pensacola today, Benjamin “Steve” Stevens corrected a Post on Politics reporter’s question about Rick’s Cabana Nightclub to say he wasn’t a manager, he was a co-owner.

A little later, when Post on Politics asked a bartender at Rick’s for the manager, she asked, “Oh, Steve?” and dialed Stevens up.

Stevens continued to insist he was not the manager, saying that there was a day manager and a night manager and the day manager was out of town.

His main interest in the liquor store and lounge operations is the building itself, he implied.

“It’s a commercial real estate investment,” he said. “It’s being treated like that right now. Otherwise I’d be there 24/7.”

Stevens, 44, was Escambia County Sheriff’s Office chief financial officer until January, when newly-elected Sheriff David Morgan took office and brought a new management team in. According to his application papers for the PSC position, he hasn’t worked for anyone else since then.

His real estate/accounting office is across the street from the club and package store where a bar employee says he is a regular presence.

(more…)

Utility regulators deal blow to FPL

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 by Dara Kam

The Florida Public Service Commission created what could be yet another public relations nightmare for the state’s largest utility yesterday.

Utility regulators ordered Florida Power & Light Co. to refund $364.8 million in fuel surcharges in a one-time payment to customers because of a drop in fuel prices.

The refunds are normally spread out over one year.

But Commissioner Nathan Skop wanted customers to get the one-time break.

As a result, FPL customers’ January bills will be about $44 cheaper as a result of yesterday’s decision.

But the next month the bills will go back up, leading to instability for customers, FPL argues.

They want customers’ bills to be consistent from month to month so residents and businesses can plan for their utility expenses.

The power company also likely wants to avoid the fallout from the sticker-shock of a bill going up $44 from one month to the next.

“While today’s action was outside the normal process for dealing with these variations, we’re happy to be able to help customers, particularly in these difficult times. Moreover, 2010 bills will be going down as a result of greater fuel efficiencies and lower fuel costs even with the full impact of our rate request. That’s good news for customers since it combines lower bills with greater investment in making the electrical infrastructure stronger, smarter, cleaner and even more fuel efficient,” FPL said in a statement yesterday.

(more…)

Vote on FPL’s proposed $1.2 billion rate hike put off until January

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist got his way with the Public Service Commission today after the panel decided to delay a vote on FPL’s proposed $1.2 billion rate hike until next year.

Regulators voted unanimously to delay a decision on FPL’s rate hike, originally scheduled for Dec. 21, until Jan. 13.

Regulators rejected their staff’s recommendation that they vote on the rate hikes this year as originally planned to comply with state law.

Instead, they agreed to vote on the amount of FPL’s rate hike on Jan. 13 and Progress Energy’s on Jan. 11.

The votes on the breakdown of the rates among different classes of customers will come on Jan. 28 for Progress and Jan. 29 for FPL.

Crist asked the commission to defer the vote on FPL’s rate case and Progress Energy Florida’s proposed $500 million rate increase until after his two new panelists take office on Jan. 1.

One of Crist’s new commissioners, David Klement, got an early start at the PSC in time to participate in today’s crucial vote.

Klement, a former newspaper editorial writer, was sworn in on Friday to fill in for former Commissioner Katrina McMurrian, who quit her job earlier this month after Crist failed to reappoint her to a second term.

UPDATE: PSC Chairman: Enough about Wall Street

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter apparently heard enough about the financial community’s worries about regulators’ decision on FPL’s proposed $1.2 billion rate hike.

Florida Power & Light Co. lawyer John Butler urged the PSC to push on with a scheduled December vote on the rate increase even after the panelists indicated they were going to give in to Gov. Charlie Crist’s demand to defer the decision.

FPL officials testified repeatedly that the Juno Beach-based utility needs the rate hike in part because Wall Street is closely watching the outcome of the case and a rejection of the increase could affect their ability to borrow.

As the panel prepared to approve delaying the FPL vote until next year, Carter, a former financial analyst and lawyer, took his second swipe at Wall Street.

“I think we make too much ado about what Wall Street will do and what wall street wants,” he said.

“This is the worst economic time in our country since the Great Depression,” Carter said.

Banks and financial institutions received $1.5 trillion in government bail-outs, some of it going to pad executives salaries, Carter went on.

“That’s a lot of money. That went to Wall Street firms and banks. That came from the taxpayers. That money was given to them by the government to stimulate the economy not to enrich themselves and all,” he said.

“I’m not beating up on Wall Street but I’m not buying the doom and gloom either.”

Earlier, FPL lawyer Butler said that a delay could further frighten investors who are already leery about the changing regulatory climate in Florida, once utility-friendly and now appearing to lean more to consumers thanks to Crist’s appointees.
(more…)

Regulators poised to put off $1.2 billion FPL rate hike vote

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 by Dara Kam

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.

(more…)

Vote on FPL vote kicks off with new commissioner

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 by Dara Kam

The Public Service Commission began its 9:30 a.m. meeting on time by welcoming Commissioner David Klement, appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist and sworn in last week.

Klement is a former newspaper editorial writer with more than four decades of experience in journalism.

Klement joins the PSC in time for a crucial vote this morning on whether to postpone decisions on Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposed $1.2 billion rate hike and Progress Energy Florida’s requested $500 million rate increase.

“I just promise to do my best and to live up to the things that I said on my oath on Friday to represent the people of Florida and the companies and all the stakeholders in these matters,” Klement said after being welcomed to the PSC by his colleagues.

PSC staff recommend that the panel move ahead with the votes this year as scheduled to comply with state law that lays out a timeline by which regulators must vote.

Crist wants the panel to delay voting on the issues until after the first of the year, when his two new appointees – Klement and Panhandle accountant and bar owner/manager Benjamin “Steve” Stevens – take office.

Klement got an early jump on the post because he’s filling in for former Commissioner Katrina McMurrian, who quit earlier this month after Crist bypassed her for reappointment.

Florida political tweeters
Video: Politics stories
Categories
Archives