The 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.