Written By: Dr. Swier
Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) website states, “The Florida Public Service Commission is committed to making sure that Florida’s consumers receive some of their most essential services — electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater — in a safe, reasonable, and reliable manner. In doing so, the PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in one or more of three key areas: rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and monitoring of safety, reliability, and service.”
The FPSC was considering a rate increase for Florida Power and Light (FPL) late last year. However, the process according to those attending the public hearings on the rate increase was usurped by FPL and commission staff at the expense of Florida citizens. Larry Nelson, a citizen present during the 2012 hearings in Sarasota and Miami, outlined in a letter how FPL was given preferential treatment by the Commission and staff.
Nelson wrote, “My first stop on my adventure was the public service hearing held in Sarasota on May 31, 2012. Here I first saw the most shocking thing about the public hearing process. In the lobby of the hearing site (Sarasota City Hall) were numerous FPL customer service representatives wearing FPL shirts who are greeting members of the public arriving to speak to the rate increase proposal. And FPL seems to have their own dedicated room. Which made no sense at all. It’s like a court hearing but one of the parties to the case gets to have their own room in the courthouse and a staff to lobby everyone, judges, jurors and the public as they walk by as to why their side is right. FPL also gets to have a table handing out literature. Nobody else gets to have a room or a table or representatives right outside the hearing room. There is no Audubon Society, no Environmental Defense Fund, no Florida Public Interest Research Group in the lobby lobbying (I guess that is where the term comes from!) against the rate increase or against the proposals or actions of FPL.”
The result of the rate increase hearings was FPSC issuing an Order on January 14th, 2013 granting Florida Power and Light FPL the ability to self-regulate over the next 4-years and to increase rates without citizen representation by the Office of Public Counsel. Thomas Saporito, from Saprodani Associates, believes that the process by which the FPSC came to issue this order was at best flawed and at worse illegal violating multiple Florida statutes.
Saporito states, “The recent decision by the Florida Public Service Commission has placed public trust and confidence and the integrity of the agency in the “toilet”. No longer can the citizens of Florida have any measure of trust or confidence in the agency to be an advocate for the Public Interest regarding electric rates established for the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). “
According to Saporito, “The settlement is “illegal” as a matter of law because the Commission does not have requisite jurisdiction and authority to consider the settlement for several reasons:
(1) the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) opposed the settlement and OPC represents all FPL ratepayers – and is a vital and required signatory to any FPL settlement;
(2) the settlement violates the “due-process” rights of citizens who would otherwise intervene where FPL seeks recovery for power plants which have not yet been built or are not yet operational;
(3) the Commission placed the settlement hearing on a rush basis and denied intervenors from fully participating in the discovery process; and
(4) the settlement allows FPL to create a “slush-fund” and access depreciation and dismantlement funds without proper oversight for the sole purpose of raising FPL’s return on equity (profits for its shareholders).”
Thomas Saporito filed a motion for reconsideration on January 14th, 2013 asking the Commission to reconsider its decision.
According to Saporito: ”I am gravely concerned about the Commission’s approval of the revised settlement with FPL where the citizens had no representation by the Office of Public Counsel. I have raised serious mis-conduct issues about the entire Commission with Steven J. Stolting, Inspector General – Office of Inspector General and I have asked his office to conduct an investigation.”
Depending on the Commission’s decision on his motion to reconsider – Saporito, “Fully intends to challenge the Commission’s Order – in filing an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court – and to file with agencies of the federal government – and perhaps a civil legal action.”