- In the wake of ratepayer complaints about Duke Energy billing practices, Florida legislators have filed two bills to prevent inappropriate cooperation between the Public Service Commission and the state’s utilities.
- SB 288, introduced by State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) would prohibit rate increases based on extended billing periods, prevent undue increases in utility deposit requirements, impose ethics training for PSC commissioners, and require the commission to hold hearings in the utilities' service territories. HB 199, introduced by Sen. Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor), would prevent retired lawmakers from becoming commissioners for two years.
- Observers question whether either bill can win majority support in Florida’s largely conservative, business-friendly legislature, the Tampa Bay Times reports, where Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power and Light, and Tampa Electric Power have strong political allies.
The complaints about Duke’s billing practices came after the utility, in trying to make its meter-reading routes more efficient, mistakenly put in place a temporary extension into about 267,000 customers' billing cycles. Some cycles were extended as much as 12 days. That increased those customers’ usage, bumping them to higher rates.
The PSC’s five commissioners are appointed by the Governor from nominees essentially selected by lawmakers. Newly re-elected Governor Rick Scott just appointed former lawmaker and restaurateur Jimmy Patronis, a close Scott political ally, to the commission.
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) Florida Director Susan Glickman expressed hope that Patronis will see his new responsibility from the point of view of a ratepayer running a family restaurant rather than from that of a Scott crony.
FPL, said SACE Executive Director Stephen Smith after recent commission hearings, “is an arrogant monopoly institution that has captured the PSC. It is arrogantly out of control and taking advantage of a broken system where there is not a functioning regulatory body to oversee them.”