Florida's Public Service Commission (PSC) is not faring well under the glare of sunshine. The PSC is supposed to protect Florida's consumers from utility companies' monopolistic desire to give rate payers the shaft.
In late August, a key PSC staffer was removed from all pending cases involving Florida Power and Light (FPL), after the staffer had admitted to going to a Kentucky Derby party at the home of an FPL exec. Yes, the words "fox," "hen," and "house" do come to mind.After a couple weeks of pressure and public outrage, that staffer finally resigned.
No, the hen house had not been cleaned out. One of the actual PSC commissioners, Katrina McMurrian, was found to have socialized with executives from the same utility that the PSC (and Ms. McMurrian) are supposed to regulate for the benefit of us consumers.
Only yesterday, Ms. McMurrian refused to recuse herself from the case in which FPL is asking the PSC for permission to raise its rates 31%.
Fortunately, Governor Charlie Crist (who appoints PSC commissioners) came out against FPL's proposed rate increase. According to the Miami Herald, basically demanded that PSC commissioners reject FPL's rate increase request or they might not be reappointed.
Good move, Governor! It doesn't surprise me: Gov. Crist is the one who appointed the PSC's two consumer-friendly commissioners (Nancy Argenziano and Nathan Skop) to balance out the utility-friendly holdovers that Jeb Bush had appointed before leaving the Governor's mansion.
That's not the end of it. The Miami Herald reports:
"... FPL late Tuesday submitted 1,500 pages worth of corporate-jet flight logs with hundreds of names blacked out. The records showing how the utility is spending its money had been requested by commissioners as they consider whether FPL should be allowed a 30 percent rate increase. FPL estimates will have spent $32.5 million on the corporate plane use since 2006.
"Late Wednesday, Commissioner Nathan Skop grilled an FPL executive about the business purpose of some of the flights, which sometimes ferried lobbyists and politicians. Also, some FPL executives flew to Louisville's airport around the time of the 2006 Kentucky Derby."
One of the questions on many onlookers' minds is this: did any of the PSC's commissioners get "ferried" around on FPL's corporate jets?
This issue comes on the heals of yet another mini-scandal, involving potentially improper communications between utility execs and some PSC staffers or commissioners. The St. Pete Times reports:
"[T]hree aides to Florida utility regulators repeatedly gave private BlackBerry messaging codes to a power company executive, potentially allowing the utility to communicate directly with them outside of public view and without leaving a paper trail.
"The revelation came in the second week of a controversial Florida Power & Light rate case that has been accompanied by accusations that the Public Service Commission has become too close to the utilities it regulates."
Commissioner Nancy Argenziano, one of the two public-friendly members of the PSC, actually fired her aide for giving out BlackBerry code.
Apparenlty, Commissioners Argenziano and Skop are the only commissioners who truly understand who's supposed to be running the show at the PSC -- and that the PSC's job is to protect consumers, not to enable utility execs to outrageously enrich themselves at the expense of Florida consumers.