- Two Florida law firms have filed a class action lawsuit against the state's largest utility, alleging years of monthly storm fees aimed at hardening the grid have gone to waste, with Florida Power & Light failing to follow through on its commitments.
- Millions of FPL customers lost power when Hurricane Irma came ashore in south Florida and thousands are still without power, particularly in the hardest-hit areas.
- Utility officials called the lawsuit "frivolous" in a comment to The Miami Herald, but said they had not yet reviewed it.
Florida Power & Light is still struggling to get the lights back on for thousands of customers, but the utility could now be facing a legal storm over its years-long preparations for strong weather disruptions.
The class-action lawsuit was filed Monday by two firms, according to the Herald: MSP Recovery Law of Kendall, Fla., and Dorta Law of Coral Gables, Fla. The suit notes that FPL has been collecting storm fees since Hurricane Wilma hit in 2005, and argues that had the utility properly managed those funds, the impacts of Irma would not have been so bad.
"We have not yet received a copy of the lawsuit, but we can only assume it’s another attempt to distract from the City’s failure to properly locate and manage its trees, despite having a website that shows the exact location of each of its 38,000 trees," the utility told the newspaper.
A statement on storm recovery efforts released by the utility yesterday also appeared to make reference to this dispute.
"Crews will finish up the few remaining jobs in areas such as Coral Gables, which for many years, has placed restrictions on our efforts to trim trees and harden our electric system," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "Unfortunately, for our customers in that area, they are now paying the price in terms of extended outages. Needless to say, we are anxious to complete this part of the process so that we can finally move our forces across the state and complete restoration for our Southwest customers."
In Southwest Florida, FPL said Manatee, Hardee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties are "essentially restored." Power restoration was 87% complete or higher in DeSoto, Highlands, Glades and Lee counties. Hendry County is 90% complete, and 83% of customers are restored in Collier County, where Irma made landfall and inflicted the worst damage.