FPL rate case delayed
Posted by Josh Hafenbrack
At Gov. Charlie Crist’s urging, the Public Service Commission voted today to delay its decision on the landmark Florida Power & Light rate case – long enough for the governor’s two new appointees to have a say in power bills for 4.5 million customers.
The final vote will now come Jan. 29, compared to a previously scheduled date of Jan. 11. The PSC also voted that FPL can’t begin charging higher rates until the vote, as the utility had previously said it was entitled to do.
FPL is asking for a $1.3 billion annual increase in base rates, which amounts to about $12.40 per month for the first 1,000-kilowatt hours used. FPL, however, notes that declining fuel costs will more than offset that increase – at least while gas prices remain low.
Earlier this month, Crist appointed former journalist David Klement and Benjamin Stevens, former chief financial officer for the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, to the five-member PSC.
Klement, a former editorial page editor for the Bradenton Herald, took his place behind the PSC bench today, but Stevens won’t start his four-year term until January.
Klement noted that he and Stevens now must go through a “very voluminous record in basically two months” to vote on the FPL case. That includes 9.699 types pages, 829 pages of exhibits and 23 days worth of video hearings, he said.
“Granted, that’s a lot of reading and viewing,” Klement said. “Can we do it? I can’t speak for commissioner-elect Stevens, but I can speak for myself. I believe I can get up to speed in time. I will commit to do so.”
Crist had asked the PSC to delay the vote so his new appointees would have a chance to weigh in. The panel has come under scrutiny for the apparently cozy relationship commissioners and their aides have with the utilities they’re supposed to regulate.
“I know there’s a lot riding on this decision today,” Klement said of the decision to delay. “I’m aware the governor wants those matters to be delayed. I’m aware this matter is now entangled in politics, which is unfortunate for all parties concerned.”
FPL opposed the delay, arguing that it would create an “added atmosphere of uncertainty” about the company’s financial future, said attorney John Butler. Wall Street investors, already “unnerved” over the contentious political environment, might also be concerned that the case keeps dragging on, he added.