Lower Utility Bills! Return To An Elected PSC?






After reading about the latest plan approved by Florida’s utility-friendly Public Service Commission, it may be time to go back to an elected PSC.

Here’s the newest outrage:

We are all familiar with a layaway plan.  Make small payments in advance. When you have paid off the item, you can pick it up.

Imagine laws permitting a layaway plan that the store could unilaterally terminate, keep your money and keep the goods you wanted to purchase.

What would you call the folks who allowed that?  Crazy?  Crooks?

No, you would call them the Florida Legislature and the Florida PSC.

And we are not talking about Target and televisions or Best Buy and washing machines.

We are talking about Next Era Energy—aka, Florida Power & Light— and Duke Energy.  We are talking about their fracking exploration in Oklahoma and nuclear plants in Florida.

For example, this past December the PSC voted to add $191 million to your electrical bill to cover the cost of FPL going into the natural gas drilling business. They are now looking for an additional $750 million per year for exploration.

Add to this the $227 million that you and I are paying into an FPL fund purportedly for upgrades at the Turkey Point nuclear plant…which they are not required to do.

But these are peanuts compared to the $3,000,000,000 that Tampa Bay residents will be charged to reimburse Duke for a failed nuclear project that won’t produce a single watt of energy.

These are all discretionary decisions by the same PSC that could have told FPL and Duke to make their shareholders eat it.

For good reason, none of this will be itemized on you electric bill.

Any other business model would require the company to do the work and then bill the customer.  At the PSC the motto is: “Bill the customer… and then maybe he will do the work”.

Why would the PSC allow this?

First of all don’t think for a minute that the PSC is insulated from politics.  They are appointed by the governor who undoubtedly confers with the muckety mucks in the Legislature.

A March 2014 report on politics and Florida utilities outlines the money being spent for campaign contributions and lobbying.  Between 2004 and 2013, the state’s four largest utilities spent $18 million for political contributions, which include $11.9 million to the Republican Party, $4.6 million to the Democratic Party organization, plus millions more to candidates.

These dollars are manna from heaven that are returned a hundredfold in Florida’s crony capitalism.

Some of you are saying that there is hope on the horizon with some GOP legislators attempting to reform the system.

Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, and Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, have filed a bill to reform the PSC.  The bill would limit commissioners to two consecutive terms, create five districts for commissioners that align with the District Courts of Appeal, require commissioners to live in the district from which they are appointed, and prohibit elected officials from being appointed to the PSC for two years after leaving office.

Attempts to go further by returning to an elected PSC have repeatedly failed. St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Dwight Dudley bill to elect PSC members has been killed in the Legislature the last two years.

I believe these reforms are destined for defeat. The Legislature prefers the status quo when it comes to the PSC.

The last appointed PSC commissioner who stood up for the consumer was Nancy Argneziano.  Her fellow Republicans pushed her out of the party and have been trying to silence her ever since.

Should we go back to an elected PSC? It was three-member elected agency until 1979, when the then-Democratic-controlled Legislature and Gov. Bob Graham changed it to a five-member body appointed by the governor  in 1979.

Anyone remember Jerry Carter? He was an elected 1960s-era PSC member. He was well into his 80s and slept through rate hearings. So maybe an elected PSC is not the answer?

But it should be discussed, debated and considered.

We certainly need to eliminate the revolving door of going from the PSC to regulated utilities with a 10-year ban on such employment.

Don’t hold your breath.  I wouldn’t count on any real reforms from  this Legislature and this governor.

The only certainty we can count on is higher electric bills.


10 Responses to “Lower Utility Bills! Return To An Elected PSC?”

  1. Sam The Sham says:

    With the recent cost of oil going up we should realize that our electric bills should rise too. Oh! Wait…

  2. Seth Platt says:

    Since the PSC cannot be trusted to pass regulations that are in the best interest of the public a petition has been started by a coalition of both conservatives and liberals called Floridians for Solar Choice to protect solar energy in the State of Florida. The petition can be found here: http://ow.ly/Hj89u
    Please sign.

  3. Reliable insight says:

    It is the frog in the boiling pot syndrome. The frog doesn’t notice the heat slowly rising until it is too late. The customer doesn’t notice tiny increments in the electric bill. For change we need a mixed PSC — some elected and some appointed.

  4. S.O.B. says:

    In addition FPL has asked/charged for the SOLAR project, another time just to help them…I would hate to see if any other large company added their corporate cost for assets to customers costs (Publix). Nice business model , Huh??? Is not this is what shareholders are for? and pay for??

  5. Jim Varian says:

    Sam the Sham – virtually none of your electricity is generated by burning oil.

  6. Sam The Sham says:

    @Jim Varian,

    Yes, your point is correct. FPL uses mostly natural gas and very little oil. BUT, natural gas prices are also coming down, and for the same reasons as oil.

  7. Becky Blackwood says:

    Am I the only one who read in the business section of the Miami Herald that Florida Power and Light’s parent company is a wind and solar energy company. The article was about the parent company initiating a major project in Hawaii of wind and solar energy for the island???? What about Florida which is flat in contour in most areas as compared to mountainous in Hawaii and the number of sunny days we have in this state plus wind generated energy which Florida could benefit from. Also, receiving “fracked” gas from Oklahoma would mean we as the taxpayers would be required to pay the major costs of bringing that gas to our state plus the costs of installing gas lines and connecting gas into each residence.
    During FPL’s last request for an increase which was a higher percentage for residential customers, the PSC approved this increase, too – about 2 years ago.
    At that time, FPL staff had community meetings where it was revealed they have more than a 10% profit, average salary of $75,000, their own fleet of private planes and no real effort was being made to use solar or wind energy which would cost considerably less than any other type of energy.

    Also, in another Herald article, FPL is offering $1,000 rebate for a residential hot water heater and $20,000 rebate if a homeowner elects to have a complete solar system.

    As a monopoly, why do they have to advertise how inexpensive their rates are? How great they are in prime time? What does that cost?

    In this past election, one of the largest contributors to Scott’s reelection was FPL.

    How can the residents of Florida expect anything less from a monopoly?

  8. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Sorry, but corporations as well as individual businessmen want to make as much money as possible – which is both legal and rationale. What is NOT RATIONALE is the lack of participation of people making under 100,000 dollars a year or on fixed incomes or living on social security who are the most effective by electrical rates NOT VOTING and, frankly, NOT HAVING ANY INTEREST IN THIS ISSUE! Hey, we are a DEMOCRACY, why do people vote over and over again for people who DO NOTHING TO REGULATE PUBLIC UTILITIES IN FLORIDA? Do we have a consumers’ group? Do we hava a consumers’ group lobbying for the average citizen? EVER HEARD ANYONE LOBBYING TO DECREASE CHARGES BY OOMCAST, FPL, etc? Whose fault is that BUT THE VOTING PUBLIC and NOT VOTING PUBLIC! The People Get the Government and Electrical Rates they deserve!

  9. Jim Varian says:

    @Sam The Sham –
    And you are right that natural gas prices remain not too far above historic lows.
    Fuel costs are passed through to customers directly without markup, settled up every year, so for fuel, anyway, you can be sure you’re paying the right amount.
    The fuel component of bills came down considerably after the price of natural gas dropped dramatically about six years ago, and the much lower prices since then continue to be reflected in customers’ bills. That’s a major reason why FPL residential customers pay less now than they did in 2009.

  10. Becky Blackwood says:


    This issue is in a monopoly there is no competition and just because rates are “low” – low by whose terms? When Florida has a surplus of sun and wind which is relatively inexpensive to convert to energy, why are they looking at fracked gas which is damaging water and underground structure in Oklahoma. I agree with you the voters need to vote against corporation funding of campaigns to insure they are allowed to profit off of the backs of the public. I am still waiting for my electric bill to reflect the fuel charges decrease. I do vote, I work as a poll clerk and I work to encourage people to vote but our younger voters are not that engaged. Let’s get back to civic and government classes in school.